BY: BRENDA IMUS
TITLE and SUBTITLES
PROPHECY and TONGUES
Satan’s Master Strategy to Weaken the Church
Edifying Gift Number One: Prophecy
Edifying Gift Number Two: Tongues
Tongues in the Public Forum
Tongues as Prophetic Utterance
PROPHECY AND TONGUES
SATAN’S MASTER STRATEGY TO WEAKEN THE CHURCH
If I were to ask a dozen Christians what it takes to become strong in the Lord, the most popular responses would be quite predictable. “Time in the Scriptures,” most would inevitably respond. “Time spent in prayer,” would surely rank a first or second place on their list. “Time spent doing good works,” might be a popular third response.
While each of these spiritual disciplines are a good and necessary part of our walk with God – are they indeed the primary methods He has ordained for the edifying or building up of the church? Until recently I thought so. But not any more. The Lord sovereignly and unexpectedly opened my mind to Scriptures that I’ve read a thousand times each – but He put them together in a way I’d never thought of doing. The results were surprising, and forever changed my concept of how we become strong in the Lord. You see, time – whether it be spent studying Scripture, praying, or doing good deeds – is something that we give to God. On the other hand, His edifying gifts are something that He gives to us. It has nothing to do with our efforts, and everything to do with His grace. As usual, His ways are not our ways!
At the same time that I began to see what gifts the Lord has given the saints for the building up of His church, I also realized that these are precisely the gifts that have become the most ignored or disdained in the church as a whole. They are also the gifts that have been most prone to abuse, misunderstanding and misuse. They’ve been literally “targeted” by the enemy. In spite of this, it’s apparent that the Lord has every intention of fully restoring them to His body. When we perceive their importance, we will understand why.
EDIFYING GIFT NUMBER ONE: PROPHECY
The Scriptures are clear: prophecy is given to the church for the purpose of strengthening it. Moreover, it seems to have a chief role in this.
1 Cor 14:3: But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.
1 Cor 14:29-31: 29] Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. 30] If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace. 31] For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted.
Eph 6:19 And [pray also] for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel.
Acts 15:32 And Judas and Silas, being prophets also themselves, exhorted the brethren with many words, and confirmed them.
In the I Cor. 14 passage we can see that the Lord places such importance upon prophetic revelation that if one prophet is speaking, and another receives a revelation in the midst of his speaking, the first prophet is to quit speaking in order to allow the next revelation to come forth. Notice that he doesn’t say the one receiving the new word should remain silent until the first speaker is finished. How unlike our current practices! Anyone indicating they’ve received another prophetic word while someone else is still speaking would be considered rude and disorderly. But not so, according to Scripture! The rhema of God is always given pre-eminence.
Next, Paul implies that those who speak prophetic words are instructed and encouraged. Anyone who receives prophetic revelation, and has the opportunity to speak it forth, can vouch for the truth of this. Revelation comes, not just for the edification of those hearing, but for the building up of those vessels being used to speak the word of God. The converse is also true: if the revelatory word is quenched, it weakens and damages the spirit of the one to whom it comes. In the passage in Ephesians, even the apostle Paul demonstrates that he didn’t trust to his own understanding of scriptures to teach others. Rather, he requested prayer so that “words may be given me.” In short, he’s asking for prayer for prophetic revelation to come forth so that he may be effective in ministry.
In the next passage it is significant that Judas and Silas are said to be prophets. Only those who operate with prophetic grace will have the right words to truly encourage and strengthen the spirits of the saints. Of course it’s possible for anyone to “build someone up” in the natural. We can praise their good works, encourage them to believe God for the best, compliment them on their clothing, offer advice on how to handle a tough situation – even praise them for holding “correct” doctrine! These things aren’t all necessarily bad, and they might even do some manner of good. But such encouragement will do nothing to truly build that person’s spirit man. That’s because only words emanating from the Spirit of God will build up or strengthen the spiritual man. All the natural wisdom in the world will not suffice for the job – in fact, when it is used to replace spiritual wisdom (which is too often the case), then it becomes an enemy to God’s purposes.
2 Pet 2:1-2: 1] But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. 2] And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.
Jude 1:16-20: 16] These are murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts; and their mouth speaketh great swelling words, having men’s persons in admiration because of advantage. 17] But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; 18] How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts. 19] These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit. 20] But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost.
We often think of scoffers, or those who “deny the sovereign Lord who bought them,” as those who are altogether outside the faith. If this were true, there would be little to fear – what Christian is willingly taught by an unbeliever? What unbeliever could successfully introduce destructive heresies into the church? Anyone who disdains prophecy or any other genuine spiritual gift is actually introducing destructive doctrines, and bringing the way of truth into disrepute. They are also denying Christ: For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. (Rev. 19:10b) (NIV) These are the kinds of teachers believers need to be wary of. In effect, they scoff at what the word clearly teaches about spiritual gifts. They write “scriptural” and “analytical” articles and preach fiery sermons that scoff at the (spiritual) things of God. They disdain prophecy, forbid tongues, teach against the baptism of the Holy Spirit. By so doing, they boast in their own understanding, cause division, and make God’s word of no effect. On the other hand spiritual, or prophetic, words and teachings build the church. It is, after all, the word of God.
1 Cor 14:3: But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.
EDIFYING GIFT NUMBER TWO: TONGUES
Tongues are also given for the edification of the church. Many in the church doubt that “praying in the spirit” is actually praying in tongues, but on this the Scriptures are quite clear.
1 Cor 14:14-15: 14] For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful. 15] What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.
1 Cor 14:2: For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.
Scriptures teach that, like prophecy, the gift of tongues is also given for the edification of the saints.
1 Cor 14:4a: He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself…
Eph 6:18: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
Jude 1:20: But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit…
So we see that praying in tongues is for our edification, as well as for the protection and edification of “all the saints.” Notice too that Ephesians teaches that we’re to pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers. As many believers can testify, there are many diverse manifestations of the gift of tongues. All are to be under the leading and control of the Holy Spirit.
TONGUES IN THE PUBLIC FORUM
I’ve often heard teachers claiming that there is no place for the gift of tongues to be used in public worship. A cursory reading of I Corinthians 14 would give that impression. But is it a right impression? Not necessarily. In Corinth, Paul was dealing with a number of wayward, out-of-order practices. Tongues were being used in public in an unwise and disorderly manner. This was (and is) a device of Satan’s to bring the gift of tongues into disrepute and thereby nullify the gift of God. So Paul was writing those oft-quoted verses in an attempt to bring the gift of tongues into more sober perspective in that fellowship and under those conditions. But if tongues are not ever to be practiced in public, how do we explain Pentecost?
Acts 2:5-11: 5] And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. 6] Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. 7] And they were all amazed and marveled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? 8] And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? 9] Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, 10] Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, 11] Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.
1 Cor 14:21-22: 21] In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord. 22] Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe.
So tongues are not only for the private, individual edification of believers, but are given as a “sign” to unbelievers, and as such have a place in public worship. In my own experience, I know that tongues are a very convincing evidence of God’s grace to young and non-believers. I had practiced the gift in private for more than a dozen years. We live in an extremely conservative religious climate, and rather than create dissension with this gift, I’d kept it to myself. Not even my family knew about it. Then one day my teenage daughter, Jamie, came into my study. She had been reading the Scriptures, and suddenly realized that they indicate tongues are for all believers of all ages.
“Mom, do you know about this?” she asked, pointing out the verses in Acts 2. “Yes,” I replied. “I’ve prayed in tongues for years.” “Really? Could I hear you?”
Though somewhat self-conscious, I complied with her request, and spoke a sentence or two of my prayer language out loud. She was astounded! More than that, my non-believing son was in the next room, and overheard our exchange. “What was that?” he asked, charging into my study. “My prayer language,” I said, and carefully explained it to him. While he didn’t immediately fall down on his face and worship God, there is no doubt that this evidence of a supernatural gift (coming as it did from a trustworthy source) was convincing evidence of the reality of my walk with Christ. He told several of his friends about it, and they also were highly intrigued. Also, from that day on my daughter Jamie became more zealous to receive spiritual gifts for herself. She’s now 17 years old, and not only speaks in tongues, but is a diligent and gifted prayer intercessor.
I should add that, since “coming out of the closet” with this gift, I’ve enjoyed much wider use of it. There is no doubt that this has contributed greatly to a deeper, more mature walk with God, and to my increased understanding of spiritual truths.
TONGUES AS PROPHETIC UTTERANCE
Tongues also come into the public forum as prophetic utterance. Prophecy is a non-static process. There are times when the one receiving a word from the Lord – whether in English or in tongues – has only the first few words or phrases come into his or her mind, and begins to speak them out of faith that the Lord will give the rest. So, though Paul exhorts the Corinthian believers to pray they may interpret their utterance in tongues, such a prayer by no means guarantees that such an interpretation will be forthcoming. Neither does it guarantee that the one receiving the interpretation will be confident enough to speak it out loud.
There have also been times when I’ve prayed for someone in the congregation, and the utterance has come out in tongues. At times this has produced immediate and dramatic results. Though I may have no rational understanding of exactly what has transpired, the fruits of this kind of prayer speak for themselves. So I choose to trust the Spirit. If He gives me a tongue to use, I use it. Given the important role Scriptures give the gifts of prophecy and tongues, and all the variables noted above, it is surely good to follow the Scripture’s admonition regarding these strengthening gifts of grace in the church:
1 Cor 14:39-40: 39] Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues. 40] Let all things be done decently and in order.
The Lord is revealing Himself to me these days by starting to open up understanding about the true significance of things instituted by God, but little esteemed by man. I’m beginning to realize that if we will take Him at His word, and do those ‘little’ things that He has commanded us to do – both in the old and new testaments – then He will indeed give us more. How can He give us more understanding into His word when we don’t even hold fast to that which we already have?
Today I am impressed to share with my brothers and sisters a revelation regarding the communion cup.
I Cor. 11:25-26: 25] After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. 26] For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.
When the Lord says that we are to take the cup and eat the bread in remembrance of Him, it is not to remind only OURSELVES of His sacrificial death. Note verse 26 above. To whom are we ‘proclaiming’ the Lord’s death when we take communion?
We are proclaiming it to powers and principalities, my friends. The Lord has shown me that when we gather for fellowship in/by His Holy Spirit that which transpires among us is holy. But we fail to treat it that way. Even when the Lord by His grace gives us awesome revelation, or knits our hearts and lives together in a greater way… we walk off and totally neglect to perform the simple commanded act of communion.
By failing to continue steadfastly in this simple act, we have allowed the church, His body, to be robbed of nearly everything He has so graciously bestowed upon us. For when we take communion as we fellowship (drink of the ‘cup’ of fellowship) we are proclaiming to the powers and principalities that what transpires among us is untouchable, because Christ paid the price to make His spiritual body inviolable. We not only declare His death – but at the same time we declare His power, His life, His substance – that lives on in us. We are, in effect, ‘sealing’ what the Lord has done among us, and declaring it holy and off-limits to the enemy.
When we fail to be faithful to the communion cup, we leave ourselves and the rest of the body wide open to the enemy.
I would encourage you to study I Corinthians, and ask the Lord to show you what it really teaches about communion. Part of the reason communion has been so neglected is because we’ve swallowed the lie that the enemy planted in our hearts regarding it. This lie teaches that we have to be in an unrealistic state of spiritual perfection in order to be worthy to take communion. To take of it in anything but a pristine, sinless state is to invite disaster upon ourselves. But that is not what the Scriptures teach!
I Cor. 11:20-21 & 29-34: 20] When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s Supper. 21] For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken.
29] For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. 30] For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. [emphasis author’s] 31] For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. 32] But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. 33] Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another. 34] And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when I come
As you prayerfully consider this I believe you’ll see that Paul was simply telling the Corinthian believers that they shouldn’t MISTREAT ONE ANOTHER DURING THE TIME OF COMMUNION, for by so doing they were MISTREATING THE VERY BODY THAT THEY WERE (spiritually) partaking of, and thereby bringing judgment upon themselves. What happens when we mistreat our own (physical) bodies? They become weak and sickly, do they not?
Of course this holds true at all times – we should never mistreat one another. But what I’ve come to understand is that we aren’t being asked to make certain we’re in a perfectly sinless state when we partake of communion. Quite the converse is true – by taking communion on a regular basis, our spiritual man (including the larger body) is strengthened to more effectively put to death the sinful flesh. Communion feeds the spiritual man – and thereby weakens the flesh. Not only this, but that which we have received in fellowship is kept, and added to each time we come together, because we’ve declared to the powers and principalities – who are ever on the alert to kill and rob and destroy all that is of Christ – that what has transpired cannot be touched.
So… by faithfully and reverently taking communion each time we come together we accomplish several remarkable goals:
1) We seal what has transpired so that the enemy cannot touch it.
2) We strengthen ourselves in the most Holy Spirit.
3) We strengthen the spiritual ties among one another.
4) We open the way for the Lord to begin adding more revelatory wisdom into His precious word. We will be allowing Him to build us up, rather than constantly shoring up what is falling down.
It grieves me so to think of the way in which we do too often take so-called ‘communion.’ We gather in denominational churches (against the teaching of Scripture), share some social chit-chat and surface-level teaching of the word, and then go sit in a pew and ‘examine ourselves’ to see if there is any sin that would prevent us from partaking of the Lord’s body and blood. If we feel holy enough… and good enough… then we go ahead and take a sip of juice and eat the wafer, and feel like we’re OK on that score till the first Sunday of NEXT month. (And Sunday, no less… Did God EVER say anything about keeping Sundays holy?… but I digress.) By so partaking of communion, we are in effect abusing the body of Christ. Is it any wonder that we, as a people, have failed to enjoy the provisions of health and prosperity that God has promised?
I Cor. 11:29-30: 29] For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. 30] For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.
There is one other issue regarding the taking of communion that I believe is worth our consideration. This next I have entirely by revelation, and so the reader will have to judge it for themselves. That is the matter of whether or not we should drink grape juice, or wine.
I had not myself given this matter any thought, until one night when Hugh and I were preparing to take communion with a good friend. He has a prophetic gift, and as I prepared the table, he kept saying there was something about it that was bothering him. More specifically, he kept saying he wondered if we should be drinking real wine, rather than grape juice–and then wondered at himself for even bringing the subject up.
Rather than ignore the prompting of the Holy Spirit, we went to prayer. Suddenly, I heard my son Charlie’s voice (in my mind), when he had one time asked me: “Mom, why do they call alcohol ‘spirits?'” I’d answered him that alcohol could be a conduit for a person to receive spirits into their lives.
Then the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart: “When you take communion without alcohol – which represents the spiritual content or power of the drink you are in effect symbolizing your rejection of the work of the Holy Spirit.” I understood in a flash that this exactly represents what most of traditional Christendom does – it possesses and outward form of Godliness, but rejects the power or inward spirit. I also knew why it had become a rare thing for actual wine to be utilized in ‘evangelical’ congregations.
Since then we’ve taken communion with wine, rather than juice. When those who have convictions against alcohol are among us, however, we offer both. If that is offensive to them, then we merely take juice. It’s the principal, and not the actual elements, that are important. This teaching should not be an excuse for division within the body… but should be understood by those who are able to receive it.
I hope this blesses some of you as it has blessed me. May God be glorified now and forever! Shalom!
STRENGTHENING GIFTS, Parts 1-2 [Brenda Imus] 1