So when you take Peter, for example, as somebody who had been given these gifts. The Spirit came upon him and he was filled with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost to speak in foreign languages, and then when he’s arrested by authorities in Acts 4 the Holy Spirit again fills him up, and then when they released him from prison, again the Holy Spirit fills him up. And so, the whole purpose of the gifts was to achieve something specific and then it was taken away.
I want to consider, then, in more detail those gifts; and I want to compare them with the claims of possession today. They had the gift of prophecy, the gift of speaking forth the word of God. And so prophets came down from Jerusalem unto Antioch and made a specific prophecy about a famine that was going to happen. Now according to 1 Corinthians 12, the early church was like a body with parts. Each part of the body like fingers, hands and legs represented a different gift. And in the body, all the gifts were possessed. So it’s no good focusing just, let’s say, on the gift of tongues; to say, “our church has the gift of tongues”. It’s got to have all the gifts if it is a valid, 1st century, spirit-filled church. And I ask, where is the gift of prophesy, in the sense of forth-telling God’s word. Because if it’s there, what is said by those people who claim to have it is capable of being written down and treated as the word of God.
There was the gift of healing. And these miracles of healing were done in the eyes of men and women. The lame man who was laid daily at the gate of the temple, he leaps up and he’s healed by the Holy Spirit. They did many of these signs and wonders amongst the people. Now this did not go on in some back-street church. I get a little bit tired of Pentecostals and others saying to me, “Come to our church, you’ll see a miracle”. There’s no question of going to a church – these miracles were all done openly, publicly, up front. There was no question about these things. And you’ll notice that the Jews said that indeed a notable miracle hath been done. It’s manifest for all them that dwell in Jerusalem. Those who heard the apostles speaking in tongues were confounded. The Jews, themselves said, “this man doeth many miracles”. So, it’s not possible to say that there should be any question about possession of the gifts. Actually, this debate shouldn’t even have to occur if the real gifts of the Holy Spirit are possessed, because when there were possessed, the people who actually saw them happening – even the cynics and the unbelievers said, “we agree that a miracle is being done” (Acts 4:13). And that to me is highly significant, because I am not an unbeliever. I am more generous to the claims of the Pentecostal movement than lets say, umm…then let’s say the Jews were of Jesus in the first century. And yet one of the features of the Holy Spirit gifts is that there’s no argument about it. These things were clearly possessed and miracles are done clearly. No debate about it. And yet, where are these miracles today? Done openly, publicly, in the eyes of unbelievers, so that everybody, even the most hardened cynic can say, “I cannot deny that this has been done”...? And there were no failed healings in the first century. This was the whole nature of the miracles that were done.
When we come to the question of tongues: in Acts 2 the apostles were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues. And everyone came together and was amazed because they heard them speak in their own language (and there’s a long list of the languages). And they said, “how hear we every man in our own tongue” (the same Greek word translated languages) “wherein we were born?” And the Greek word that’s translated “tongues” there is used later on (in Revelation for example) about people of every tongue and nation…languages. So they were speaking foreign languages. It wasn’t an unintelligible utterance. It was, for example, the ability for you to go to, say Turkey and speak in Turkish, Greece and speak in Greek. And no wonder people were amazed. Now I’ve heard many times the so-called speaking in tongues that happens today and I’m not confounded, I’m not amazed…neither is anybody else. People are maybe mildly fascinated. If I could speak to you suddenly in your native language (let’s say you don’t speak English) it would definitely arrest you in your tracks. But notice, though, that tongues were not that important in the early church. The list of the spirit gifts in Ephesians 4 doesn’t even mention it and it occurs at the bottom of a similar list in 1 Corinthians 12. There are only 3 times in the New Testament when the gift of tongues is spoken of as being used.