“[…] In a congregation I would rather speak five words with my mind, that I might also instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue.”
~1 Corinthians 14:19
What was the purpose of Christians speaking in tongues and how do we know God discontinued the use of this miracle in his service?
Fifty days after Jesus’ resurrection, 120 of his Jewish disciples gathered together in Jerusalem to observe the Pentecost. (Acts 2:1-4)
They received through holy spirit the ability to communicate with Jews visiting from foreign countries.
Thus, many converted to Christianity. (Acts 2:5-11; 41-43)
This was one of nine gifts of the spirit early Christians relied on to help others learn the truth about Christ.(1 Cor. 12:7-11; Heb. 2:3,4)
But Bible prophecy states those gifts would cease. (1 Cor. 13:8)
After Pentecost, Christians who continued to receive the gift of speaking in tongues were notably in the company of an apostle. (Acts 8:18; 10:44-46; 19:6)
It is to be understood then that after the last apostle’s death, these miraculous gifts would cease and the only way to identify God’s true congregation would be through its love. (John 13:35; 1 Cor. 13:13)
While modern Christians do not speak in tongues, we can still use our speech to build each other up. (1 Cor. 14:12)
(Last week there was no assigned Congregation reading corresponding to my personal study so I respectfully remind JW blog readers not to use these notes to prepare comments for this week’s meeting. Thank you.)
“Jesus said to them: ‘Children, you do not have anything to eat, do you? […] Come, have your breakfast.'”
I find it heartwarming that one of the last things Jesus did for his friends before leaving this world was to make them breakfast.
He had important instructions to give them, but he did not rush through his visit.
Jesus took the time to comfort them- particularly Peter, who was no doubt discouraged from having denied knowing him on the night of his death. (John 18:25-27; 21:15-19)
Jesus’ forgiving, patient, generous and industrious attitude is a fine benchmark for what type of friends we should strive to be.
“After looking around at them all, he said to the man: ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He did so, and his hand was restored.”
Did Jesus expect his followers to be charismatic faith healers?
Unlike religious faith healers, Jesus’ healings were not characterized by sensationalist drama and were usually rather casual.(Matt. 8:14, 15; Luke 8:43-48; 17:12-19)
The healings were physically visible. Had they been merely psychosomatic healings, the effects would have worn off sooner or later.
For instance, in the case of the man whose hand was paralyzed, Luke the medic says the hand was literally restored.
That is why not even Jesus’ enemies ever denied that the healings were really taking place.
Instead, they planned to kill Jesus (Luke 6:11; John 11:47,48)
Jesus’ healings served the purpose of signaling him as the messiah and savior of mankind. (Heb. 2:3,4)
But after the Christian congregation were established, some would perform “powerful works” in his name without his approval.(Matt. 7:21-23)
Such miracles would no longer be necessary because love was to be the hallmark trait of true Christians.(1 Cor. 12:27–13:2, 8)
His disciples would display that love by spreading the good news of God’s kingdom to everyone. (Matt. 24:14; 28:19,20)
“Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was cured from that hour.”
Does the Bible teach that illnesses are induced by demons?
While the boy in this story did exhibit symptoms of epilepsy, his sudden convulsions were actually being controlled by a demon. (Matt. 17:15)
Jesus’ disciples had Holy Spirit to cure the ill (Matt. 10:8)
The Bible differentiates between those who were ill and those who were demon-possessed. (Matt. 4:24)
Still, Jesus’ disciples could have expelled the demon from the boy’s body had they had sufficient faith. (Matt. 17:19,20)
In Bible history, there was someone who developed a disease as a result of a direct demonic attack.
But in the case of Job, he was being specifically targeted by Satan to try to prove points against Jehovah and against humankind. (Job 2:4-7)
It is not the standard in the Bible that illnesses or diseases are direct results of demon activity. (Rom. 5:12)
But regardless of the origin, God promises to do away with all suffering under Christ’s kingdom. (Isa. 33:24; Rev. 21:3,4)
“As one of them was cutting down a tree, the axhead fell into the water, and he cried out: ‘Alas, my master, it was borrowed!’ The man of the true God said: ‘Where did it fall?’ So he showed him the place. He then cut off a piece of wood and threw it there and made the axhead float. He said: ‘Lift it out.’ So he reached out his hand and took it.”
~2 Kings 6:5-7
Jehovah allowed Elisha to carry out this miracle of retrieving the axhead from the river bottom.
What was so important about an axhead?
Elisha must have been concerned with the prophets’ reputation and did not want anyone to criticize their sacred work.
This teaches us that we should return what we borrow or pay back what we owe to avoid becoming a stumbling block for others’ faith (Matt. 18:7).
Israel also saw the great power that Jehovah wielded against the Egyptians, and the people began to fear Jehovah and to put faith in Jehovah and in his servant Moses.
The reaction of many to the good news of Christ’s kingdom tends to be:
“I don’t need that. We already have a religion.”
“Take your message to someone who needs it.”
The above text mentions that it was not until the Israelites had crossed the Red Sea and had seen the Egyptians dead on the seashore that they began “to put faith in Jehovah.”
They had witnessed many miracles first hand, and they believed to have an acceptable form of worship.
But faith can always be stronger.
We shouldn’t passively assume we are good enough for God.
He promises to end suffering and transform this world into a paradise (Psalm 37:9-11; Rev. 21:4,5).
Although we may believe his word to a high degree, our faith has yet to grow until we see these promises materialize with our own eyes.
Faith is something we should actively build and not just take for granted.
“Faith is the assured expectation of what is hoped for, the evident demonstration of realities that are not seen. […] Moreover, without faith it is impossible to please God well, for whoever approaches God must believe that he is and that he becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him,” (Heb. 11:1,6).