Couple of months back, various Malayalee Brethren and Pentecostal Bible teachers came together to have a debate regarding various topics. Refer to the following links:
(1). Pentacost-Brethren Snehasamvadham- Dallas 2016
(2). Post-debate thoughts by Pr. Shibu Peediakal and Br. Ashish Jacob
(3). Pr. Shibu Peediakal refuting Brethren Assembly Preachers again
One of the topics that Pastor Shibu has addressed in various clips on his Youtube channel is regarding speaking in tongues (which of course, the Brethren teach that this gift has ceased with the early Church). Personally, I don't believe that the gift of tongues has ceased. Will all believers speak in tongues to demonstrate they have been baptized by the Holy Ghost? It's a very controversial question and subject. From studying Scripture, I personally haven't been convinced that speaking in tongues is a mandatory requirement for all believers. Each has a different gift that the Holy Ghost gives them in order to minister to others. I'm reminded of how Paul teaches us that we all compose the Body of Christ and we all have different functions just like the different components of the human body have different functions (refer to 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 and Romans 12:6-8). This passage indicates that not everyone has the same gifts, and that it is the Holy Ghost who determines who should receive a particular gift(s). The Bible is clear that there is only one baptism (refer to Ephesians 4:5). I believe that there was a confusion in the beginning of the early Church regarding baptism (they didn't know the existence of the Holy Ghost- refer to Acts 13:2). Some were still being baptized only through John the Baptist's baptism- i.e. baptism with water. John the Baptist's baptism with water called for repentance of sins (refer to Acts 13:1-5). They failed to understand that Jesus would add to this baptism- i.e the baptism with the Holy Ghost and fire. Thus, He would unite the baptism with water and the baptism with the Holy Ghost and fire into one baptism (that is why in the Great Commission He says, baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost). When we undergo water baptism today, if we are baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, we are baptized with the Holy Ghost and fire also. Thus, it is one baptism (refer to Ephesians 4:5).
Instead of focusing on tongues as the evidence of baptism with the Holy Ghost, I believe that we need to be focusing on the fruit of the Spirit as the evidence of the Holy Ghost. John's baptism emphasized repentance of sins. However, I don't think that frees a person from their sinful nature. The Holy Ghost is what empowers us, controls us, and guides us to overcome our sinful nature (refer to Romans 7:21-25, Romans 8:1-14, and Galatians 5:16-26) and bear the fruit of the Spirit.
Pastor Shibu also cited Jude 1:20; 1 Corinthians chapter 14, Romans 8:26; and Ephesians 6:18 as evidences for praying in the Spirit but somehow equates this to praying in tongues. Let's see what the above passages state:
I used the NLT to look up these passages and compared it with the authorized KJV.
(1). Jude 1:20 states the following truth:
Pray in the power of the Holy Spirit.
(2). 1 Corinthians 14:12-17 states the following truths:
Those who are eager to have the special abilities that the Holy Spirit gives, they should seek abilities which they can use to strengthen the whole church. Anyone who speaks in tongues should pray also for the ability to interpret what has been said. If one prays in tongues, one's own spirit is praying (the phrase "my spirit" is not referring to the Holy Spirit, rather it is referring to our inner being). When one's own spirit is praying, one doesn't understand what they themselves are saying. So what is Paul's solution to this dilemma? He says that he will pray in the spirit and also pray in words that he understands. Again, "in the spirit" doesn't seem to be referring to praying in the Holy Spirit- as the word "Spirit" (referring to the Holy Spirit) is not used here, rather "spirit" (referring to one's own spirit) is being used in this verse. Paul continues to say that he will sing both in the spirit as well as sing in words that he understands (perhaps a reference to how Jesus taught in John 4:23-24 that we need to worship God "in spirit and in truth" as God is Spirit). Paul gives the rationale for choosing to pray and sing in both ways in order to help others around you to understand what one is saying so that they may join you in giving thanks to God.
(3). Romans 8:26 states the following truths:
The Holy Spirit helps us in our weaknesses, like when we don't know what God wants us to pray for. The Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings (not tongues) that cannot be expressed in words. Again, tongues involves the use of words, groanings don't. Paul further explains how God the Father knows everyone's hearts and understands what the Holy Spirit (again, this is not referring to our own spirit) is saying, as the Holy Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God's own will.
Thus, I just want to emphasize couple of important distinctions here- groanings are different from tongues. Groanings are used by the Holy Spirit while tongues are used by our own spirit.
(4). Ephesians 6:18 states the following truth:
Pray in the Holy Spirit at all times and on every occasion.
Nowhere in this passage does it state that we must pray in the Holy Spirit through tongues. By deduction (by referring to Romans 8:26 regarding to how the Holy Spirit prays for us), we can see that the Holy Spirit prays through groanings, not tongues.
Thus, after going through these passages, how can one say that praying in the Holy Spirit means praying in tongues? The Pentecostal teaching regarding this didn't make any sense to me. I hope believers will think about these thoughts that I shared.
From my understanding of baptism from Scripture, its aspects are:
(1). baptism with water- representing repentance of sins (as I've stated already above)
(2). baptism with Christ in His death and burial (i.e. we are sharing in His death and burial. The importance of this is putting to death our sinful nature so that we don't continue to sin. It's also a reminder that we shouldn't abuse God's grace and pervert it into licentiousness (refer to Romans 6:1-11 and Jude 1:4).
(3). being controlled, empowered, and guided by the Holy Ghost (as I've already stated above) to overcome the sinful nature and instead bear the fruit of the Spirit.
(4). baptism with fire- I think this is referring to us sharing in the sufferings of Christ (trials/tribulations on this earth). Fire by trial/tribulations refines us. Refer to Matthew 20:21-28; Romans 8:17; and 1 Peter 1:6-7).
We must be born again by water and the Holy Ghost through one baptism (refer to John 3:5 and Ephesians 4:5).
1 Corinthians 14:1-25 is an excellent passage regarding how we should look at the gift of tongues. What does Paul teach regarding tongues in this passage?
(1). Loving others should be the highest goal for each believer (refer also to 1 John 3:14-19 and Philippians 2:3).
(2). We should also desire the special abilities which the Holy Ghost gives- especially the ability to prophesy. According to the above passage, I don't think prophesy is limited to just getting a revelation from God about a future event. I think it also involves strengthening, encouraging others, and comforting others (refer to 1 Cor. 14:3).
(3). Paul gives more importance to prophesy than tongues because he explains that tongues benefit only one's self and also acts as a sign for unbelievers (refer to 1 Cor. 14:4,22). Tongues can be only beneficial in a gathering when someone can interpret what is spoken in tongues by another believer. In contrast, prophesy benefits fellow believers (the Church) and can also convict unbelievers to repent (which is truly powerful as it can help them realize/experience God's presence in a gathering/meeting of believers). I think many times, we tend to not fully grasp and appreciate God's presence when the Holy Ghost uses people to prophesy, teach, encourage, serve, help/give, lead, show kindness to others. As I was reading Acts 2:38-39, I saw the phrase "Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." Thus, I'm also reminded of how we also tend to not fully grasp and appreciate God's gift to us- i.e. the Holy Ghost (who is supposed to be our Companion and Counselor). Many times when we go through difficulties in life and loneliness, we can fall into the trap of thinking we're all alone and question God's presence in our life. We tend to forget and appreciate the Holy Ghost dwelling in us. It's by praying and worshiping God even in the midst of trials that we can experience/appreciate Him and our focus can be shifted back to Him. I find myself needing to listen and sing along with songs like "Offering" by Paul Baloche to help me get my focus back onto God.
(ii). teaching from the Bible
(iii). encouraging others
(iv). serving others
(v). helping/giving to others
(vi). leadership (which is not to be abused for narcissistic purposes to elevate one's self. Instead, leadership must be used to humble one's self and serve others as seen with the example of Jesus Christ).
(vii). showing kindness to others
We tend to take for granted the above gifts, perhaps because it doesn't show as much charisma that the gift of tongues has. The truth is that there is great power in doing good deeds as mentioned above. How great it is to strengthen and help others through such ministries! From our part, is there anything more powerful than helping, teaching, serving, leading, and showing kindness to others? Many times, I think our own minds deceive us to think that we need to perform miracles and speak in tongues to demonstrate spirituality (because of their charisma). Again, there is nothing wrong in performing miracles and speaking in tongues (if people truly have those gifts/abilities from God). However, what is more glorious is for us to practice the other gifts mentioned above which are taken for granted. We need to learn to start seeing greater charisma/power/spirituality in such gifts because of the way it can help and strengthen others instead of serving mainly as a divine sign (i.e. in reference to tongues) to them.
When I was reading Acts 2, I tried to imagine what it must have been like to have God's power coming down on the group of believers in that passage. What a sight that must have been to see people having tongues of fire resting on their heads!
Where do we see such phenomenon today among churches? Some say we can't see them because it has ceased (cessationalism). Some who do still believe (that the gift of tongues is present) may pervert it also (where they babble instead of truly being led by the Holy Ghost to speak) in order to deceive others. The question is- do we prevent God from working through us because of carnality and unbelief in God's power? Refer to Mark 6:5-6.
The Holy Ghost has inspired me to write that we (as a Church) need to get rid of all wickedness and hypocrisy in order to experience God's power. We can only experience God's power and phenomenon/miracles only when we get rid of sin and instead bear the fruit of the Spirit and live by great faith in God. As I just typed that sentence, I felt the touch of the Holy Ghost (manifesting to me as an electrical sensation) flowing through my body as to give me His approval of the truth I just shared. When God performs miracles through us, may it never get to our heads and fill us with pride in our spirituality compared to others. May we truly seek the special abilities from the Holy Ghost (mentioned above) in order to help and strengthen others instead of trying to bring glory to ourselves. Seeking the gift of tongues is not a wrong thing, but let us be motivated to seek gifts which can be used to help and strengthen others. That's where God is truly pleased and glorified. When we help and strengthen others, it allows people to experience God's goodness. That's what our purpose as believers is- allowing God to work through us so that others may experience God's goodness and glory. The focus is all about bringing glory to God in everything we do, instead of trying to bring glory to ourselves also.
I just want to give the above passage (from 1 Corinthians 14) with the points highlighted.
1 Corinthians 14:1-25 (NLT):
Let love be your highest goal! But you should also desire the special abilities the Spirit gives—especially the ability to prophesy. 2 For if you have the ability to speak in tongues, you will be talking only to God, since people won’t be able to understand you. You will be speaking by the power of the Spirit, but it will all be mysterious. 3 But one who prophesies strengthens others, encourages them, and comforts them. 4 A person who speaks in tongues is strengthened personally, but one who speaks a word of prophecy strengthens the entire church.
5 I wish you could all speak in tongues, but even more I wish you could all prophesy. For prophecy is greater than speaking in tongues, unless someone interprets what you are saying so that the whole church will be strengthened.
6 Dear brothers and sisters, if I should come to you speaking in an unknown language, how would that help you? But if I bring you a revelation or some special knowledge or prophecy or teaching, that will be helpful. 7 Even lifeless instruments like the flute or the harp must play the notes clearly, or no one will recognize the melody. 8 And if the bugler doesn’t sound a clear call, how will the soldiers know they are being called to battle?
9 It’s the same for you. If you speak to people in words they don’t understand, how will they know what you are saying? You might as well be talking into empty space.
10 There are many different languages in the world, and every language has meaning. 11 But if I don’t understand a language, I will be a foreigner to someone who speaks it, and the one who speaks it will be a foreigner to me. 12 And the same is true for you. Since you are so eager to have the special abilities the Spirit gives, seek those that will strengthen the whole church.
13 So anyone who speaks in tongues should pray also for the ability to interpret what has been said. 14 For if I pray in tongues, my spirit is praying, but I don’t understand what I am saying.
15 Well then, what shall I do? I will pray in the spirit, and I will also pray in words I understand. I will sing in the spirit, and I will also sing in words I understand. 16 For if you praise God only in the spirit, how can those who don’t understand you praise God along with you? How can they join you in giving thanks when they don’t understand what you are saying? 17 You will be giving thanks very well, but it won’t strengthen the people who hear you.
18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than any of you. 19 But in a church meeting I would rather speak five understandable words to help others than ten thousand words in an unknown language.
20 Dear brothers and sisters, don’t be childish in your understanding of these things. Be innocent as babies when it comes to evil, but be mature in understanding matters of this kind. 21 It is written in the Scriptures:
“I will speak to my own people
through strange languages
and through the lips of foreigners.
But even then, they will not listen to me,”
says the Lord.
22 So you see that speaking in tongues is a sign, not for believers, but for unbelievers. Prophecy, however, is for the benefit of believers, not unbelievers. 23 Even so, if unbelievers or people who don’t understand these things come into your church meeting and hear everyone speaking in an unknown language, they will think you are crazy. 24 But if all of you are prophesying, and unbelievers or people who don’t understand these things come into your meeting, they will be convicted of sin and judged by what you say. 25 As they listen, their secret thoughts will be exposed, and they will fall to their knees and worship God, declaring, “God is truly here among you.”
From what I've seen both in Brethren and Pentecostal churches, the fruit of the Spirit is not being seen among "believers". Instead, carnality is being seen. As it is, Indians/Malayalees have a problem with narcissism and sociopathy, regardless of if they are Christians or non-Christians. They love to engage in competition (in both secular and spiritual areas), insulting/putting others down based on success/blessings. They do whatever it takes to elevate themselves (this is what narcissistic sociopaths do) at the expense of bringing down others. To them, worldly success determines one's favor with God. If one has material blessings, then they must be in favor with God. If one is poor or struggling in life, then there must be something wrong with that person and they must not be in favor with God (thus church members can tell them to give more money to the church, become more active in church, etc. in order to gain favor from God). Today, the reality is that, even evildoers/carnal minded Christians can prosper (refer to 2 Timothy 3:1-9,13). This passage indicates that even people's prosperity in the midst of being wicked can deceive themselves (even carnal minded Christians/impostors within Christianity). Just take a look at the Malayalee youth. There's so much wickedness rampant among them (both in western countries as well as in India). Sexual immorality has become the norm for them and churches will turn a blind eye to it as long as they show they have material blessings (since they think material blessings are a sign of favor from God). I've come across young males and females among both Pentecostal and Brethren groups (especially the ones who are youth leaders, worship leaders, etc.) who were living a double life. They would go to night clubs, have live-in relationships with their boyfriends/girlfriends, go to strip clubs, etc. Some were very dangerous sociopaths who wouldn't even warn their fellow believers of homosexual sex predators among their common acquaintances/friends (homosexual sex predators/pedophiles exist even in places like India where you usually don't suspect them to be present). Even married Malayalee couples are seen going to night clubs and let their spouses attend bachelor/bachelorette parties (where they can get male or female strippers and engage in sexual immorality). Do such people bear the fruit the of the Spirit through such wickedness? What is the point of claiming to have the gifts of the Holy Spirit (like speaking in tongues, teaching in churches, being leaders in churches, etc.) if they are engaging in wickedness on the side? They are crucifying Christ in public or in secret (refer to Hebrews 6:5-6 and Hebrews 10:26-29). If they have a prestigious degree and high paying job, churches will turn a blind eye to whatever they do. However, if a person doesn't have material blessings and engaged in such wickedness and gets caught by older Malayalee adults, they will gossip about them and crucify them publicly (even the youth are hypocrites and do the same). Many Malayalee churches have double standards and are corrupt in regards to this. If you confront them about it, they will throw their doctrines in your face to gaslight you (a sociopathic strategy). Gaslighting people with questionable/controversial church doctrines (ex. penal substitutionary atonement and imputed righteousness) causes people to be deceived to think that the practice of double standards/hypocrisy is justified. They will apply their atonement and imputed righteousness doctrines to the people they favor who engage in wickedness. However, they won't apply it to the people they don't favor (even within their own churches). That's the hallmark of cults. Cult leaders (who are narcissistic sociopaths) go to great lengths to justify their own wickedness and hypocrisy while targeting the spiritual/moral weaknesses/failures of their fellow members in order to establish/maintain their domination of others in an assembly. This is the only way they can be a leader- which is not the right word for such people. The right word for them is "overlord" or "dictator".
When Malayalees (even "Christians"), see someone with a low paying job, it's an eye-sore for them. If they themselves have to humble themselves and accept jobs of custodians, it's repulsive to them as the Indian/Malayalee mentality has brainwashed them with carnality/narcissism. Again, their fellow carnal minded/narcissistic sociopathic Christians add insults/mistreatment to them to make them feel inferior. To them, everyone must be doctors, dentists, nurses, engineers, pharmacists, physician assistants, accountants, lawyers, etc. in order to be found acceptable. It shows that they are clueless regarding what the Bible teaches regarding humility and getting rid of pride. Their minds haven't renewed/changed by the Holy Ghost.
Matthew 20:27-28 (NLT):
and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. 28 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
1 John 2:15-17 (NLT):
Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. 16 For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. 17 And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.
Those who humble themselves on earth (even willing to do the lowest of jobs on this earth which are considered the work of slaves/servants) will be the ones who will be first in Heaven. May people learn to put to death the carnal/narcissistic mentality seen in the Indian/Malayalee culture. May Malayalees learn to be spiritually mature and renew their minds to promote spirituality (especially humility) instead of carnality (pride/narcissism) in regards to all of these things. Instead of looking down on/insulting others who have low paying jobs/less material blessings, may we respect and honor them and treat everyone equally (since we must see each other as the Body of Christ- regardless of our earthly social status).
James 2:1-7 (NLT):
My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?
2 For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. 3 If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, “You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor”—well, 4 doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives?
5 Listen to me, dear brothers and sisters. Hasn’t God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith? Aren’t they the ones who will inherit the Kingdom he promised to those who love him? 6 But you dishonor the poor! Isn’t it the rich who oppress you and drag you into court? 7 Aren’t they the ones who slander Jesus Christ, whose noble name you bear?
Malayalees have become dangerously narcissistic. Today, Malayalee parents (in the name of competition and keeping up with others) drive their children insane. I've seen people develop mental disorders (like bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, depression, etc.) out of psychological breakdown induced by such competitive/psychologically abusive environments. I think this is also a key factor in why many of the youth rebel today (i.e. unrealistic expectations being forced on them in Malayalee family + church environments). Many youth also fear arranged/forced marriages in such environments. Arranged/forced marriages are no different than rape (as it's forcing the parents' will onto their children). This rapist type of mentality (i.e. parents forcing their will onto their children in regards to field of study, marriage, etc.) is a huge factor in rebellion among the youth. It really needs to stop. It can only stop when churches start addressing the carnal mind and put an end to traditional Indian/Malayalee practices which encourage parental control/manipulation of their children to an unhealthy/sociopathic extent as well as getting rid of carnality and pride.
One must determine if they have a right standing with God based on their spiritual success- i.e. being able to live a godly life by bearing the fruit of the Spirit and getting rid of all hypocrisy. One must spiritually circumcise their hearts and minds in order to be found right in the sight of God. Worldly success doesn't determine your justification/salvation. It's a right heart/changed heart which determines your salvation (refer to 2 Timothy 3:13; Romans 2:4-11,29; Isaiah 55:7; 1 Thessalonians 5:3; Luke 6:24-26; Psalm 92:7; Acts 26:20; James 2:14-26 and 1 John 2:15-17).
Christ is always our example. He wasn't materially blessed during His life on earth. He lived a poor man's life. He left his glory and riches in Heaven and purposely took on a life of poverty and suffering so that we (both poor and rich on this earth) may become spiritually rich. This spiritual richness involves us becoming humble (even if you are rich on this earth. If you are poor, maintain humility) and bearing the fruit of the Spirit. We are called to love one another and share our blessings with each other. This is what characterized the early Church (people sold their possessions in order to help the needy among them and they shared everything that had with each other). The early church was the direct opposite of what is seen in many churches today (which are characterized by narcissism and carnality). The early Church members weren't competing with each other, boasting about their own successes and putting others down to elevate themselves. Instead, they were building each other up.
Many people today are attracted to charismatic churches because of prosperity gospel (teachings which focus on material blessings which can be gained if you do whatever they want you to do- particularly giving money to them). How many churches today are attracting people for the spiritual blessings they can get by leading them to God instead of asking/demanding them for money? Of course, many people will be out there who could care less about spiritual blessings since their carnal mind is desiring material blessings. Hence, it will be difficult to attract them. Of course, that shouldn't bother genuine believers/churches. As genuine believers/church, it's our job to help people break free from that carnal nature of theirs and focus on spiritual blessings so that their souls will be saved and furthermore, that they will have treasure stored up in Heaven by doing good deeds on this earth (refer to Luke 18:22 and Matthew 6:20).
May we focus on sharing a Gospel that teaches a saving faith evidenced by good deeds.
Acts 26:20 (NLT):
I preached first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that all must repent of their sins and turn to God—and prove they have changed by the good things they do.
James 2:24 (NLT):
So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone.