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(Last Updated: 29 Jan 2004 )
I think it's apparent that Jesus was referring only to spiritual leaders and didn't mean what he said literally and absolutely. If he did, what do I call my Dad when I ring him up? And how does a child refer to the person who is teaching them how to read? And whenever we say "Mr." or "Mrs." we are using a derivative of the word "Master", just like when we call someone "Doctor" we are using the Latin word for teacher.
So what did Jesus mean? I think he was exaggerating to make a point, to show the scribes and Pharisees how sinful and proud they were for not looking humbly to God as the source of all authority and fatherhood and teaching, and instead setting themselves up as the ultimate authorities, father figures, and teachers. Jesus used hyperbole like this a lot, like when he said, "If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell" (Matt. 5:29). He probably did not intend this to be applied literally, because otherwise all Christians would be blind amputees! (See 1 John 1:8 - 2:1 "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us..."; also see 1 Tim. 1:15 - note how Paul there uses the word "am", and not "was").
So we Catholics would say that Jesus, in his usual not-mincing-words way, condemned the misuse of authority rather than the use of certain terms of address. Jesus is telling us not to confuse any human fatherly relationship with the spiritual Fatherhood that God alone has. We must not forget that we are subject to God's authority; he is our Master and Teacher and Father. That's why, when we talk about the Pope or priests as "father" we always do so with the recognition that God is our true Father, but surely they are not wrong to use Him as their model.
Besides all that, the Apostles have given us a good sense of where it is proper to call someone "father". When Stephen was on trial before the Sanhedrin (the Jewish high council of priests and elders) he addressed them as "brothers and fathers" (Acts 7:2). This seems pretty significant because the Scripture says that Stephen spoke under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:55). There is no way that the Holy Spirit could have inspired Stephen to address the Jewish priests as "father" if Christ had indeed literally forbidden Christians from calling men by that title. If so, there would have been a direct contradiction between a command of Christ and a prompting of the Holy Spirit, and we would both agree that that's never gonna happen.
And there are heaps of other references to spiritual father-son (or father-child) relationships; in the OT, some examples are Gen. 45:8, Job 29:16, Isaiah 22:21, 2 Kings 2.12, 2 Kings 6.21. In the NT, Paul called Timothy his child or son (1 Cor. 4:17, 1 Tim. 1:2, 2 Tim. 1:2, 1 Tim 1:18, 2 Tim 2:1, Phil. 2:22). Also see Titus 1:4 and Phil 10.
Another good one is 1 Cor 4:15 - "Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel."
My point is, I think you are wrong to say
that the title of "father" is a denial of God's word. In fact, it
follows the biblical example.
(For more on this, see here).
Besides, Christ sent his disciples out as vicars, people who literally took his place: "He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me" (Luke 10:16). The Pope is simply carrying on this role as he preaches and teaches the word of God.
This is the same principle as in the common Anglican practice of calling their pastors "vicar". No serious Anglican would say that by using this title he was trying to put his pastor in the place of God Almighty.
And as for the Pope being the antichrist; "anti" can mean either "instead of" as you said, or "against". Strong's Greek Lexicon says that the Greek word used in 1 John 2:18 for antichrist is antichristos, which translates as "the adversary of the Messiah". 1 John 2:22 defines the antichrist as "the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ". This definitely does not apply to the Pope, since popes have affirmed Jesus as the Messiah for 2000 years.
"CANON I. - If any one saith, that man may be justified before God by his own works, whether done through the teaching of human nature, or that of the law, without the grace of God through Jesus Christ; let him be anathema" (which means "out of the church").
The teaching that we are not saved by grace is a heresy called Pelagianism, which was condemned by the Church in the 2nd Council of Orange, in 529 AD.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says "Our justification [i.e. salvation] comes from the grace of God. Grace is favour, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life" (#1996).
The Church has always taught that salvation
comes through the grace of Christ.
(See my Salvation page for more on this).
b) We know of at least four complete households that were baptised when the leaders of the household were converted: when Lydia was converted by Paul's preaching, "she and the members of her household were baptised" (Acts 16:15). In his greetings to the Corinthians, Paul says, "I also baptised the household of Stephanas" (1 Cor. 1:16). In Acts 18:8, Paul tells us of Crispus and his household who came to believe in the Lord. The Philippian jailer who Paul and Silas had converted, was baptised along with his household (Acts 16.33). And there's also the household of Cornelius (Acts 10:47). I think with some of these examples you could probably make an argument that none of those baptised were infants (as the context seems to indicate the entire household were older than little children), but not with all of them. Given that entire households were baptised, it is likely that if there were any exceptions (like for infants) then that would have been made quite clear.
c) In a number of your letters you have mentioned Acts 2:38, where Peter says "Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." But you haven't mentioned that Peter's teaching here is not only restricted to adults. He goes on to say "The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off-for all whom the Lord our God will call." I just wanted to point out that there is more to this verse than is often quoted.
d) It says in Luke 18:15 "People were also bringing babies to Jesus to have him touch them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, 'Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.'" These babies couldn't repent, yet the kingdom of God belongs to such as them. If baptism is connected to salvation (which it is: see my baptism page for more), then the Church is correct to not prevent infants from being brought forward for baptism.
e) In Colossians 2:11-13 Paul makes a connection between baptism and circumcision: "In him [Christ] you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins". Israel was the church before Christ (Acts 7:38, Romans 9:4), and circumcision, given to 8-day old boys, was the seal of the covenant God made with Abraham, which applies to us also: "He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit." (Galatians 3:14, and 29). Circumcision was a sign of repentance and future faith in those infants circumcised, just like baptism is now for baptised babies. Infants were just as much a part of the covenant as adults (Deuteronomy 29:10-12, and see Matthew 19:14). In a similar way, baptism is the seal of the New Covenant in Christ. It signifies cleansing from sin, just as circumcision did (Deuteronomy 10:16, 30:6, Jeremiah 4:4, 9:25, Romans 2:28-9, Philippians 3:3). So if baptism is the New Covenant equivalent of circumcision, and circumcision was applied to infants and to adult converts, then maybe baptism should be applied in the same manner. (The difference between circumcision and baptism is that circumcision was powerless to save (Gal. 5:6, 6:15), but "baptism ... now saves you" (1 Pet. 3:21)).
Even in the books of the New Testament that were written later in the first century, during the time when there were beginning to be children raised in Christian homes, we never - not even once - find an example of a child raised in a Christian home who is baptised only upon reaching the age of reason and making a decision for Christ.
Perhaps the reason that, as you point out, repentance is always connected to baptism in the Bible is that the New Testament chooses only to describe those adults that are converted (and who therefore need repentance). Either there were in fact no babies baptised as Christians (your position) or the babies baptised as Christians simply aren't mentioned because adult conversions were more significant.
f) The Christian Church, right from the start, taught the practice of infant baptism and declared it to be of apostolic origin. In fact, a council held around 250 AD discussed the question of whether an infant should be baptised on the eighth day after birth. The only reason they would even discuss this is because they recognised baptism as the Christian equivalent of circumcision , which was given on the eighth day after birth (Lev. 12:2-3). Also note that the great early Christians who were raised in Christian homes (such as Irenaeus) were almost certainly baptised as children themselves (else they would not be declaring the practice to be of apostolic institution, but as a new invention). So when Irenaeus in one place says that regeneration happens in baptism and in another place that Jesus came so even infants could be regenerated, he has in mind regenerating infants by baptism. Since he was born in a Christian home in Smyrna around AD 140, this means he was probably baptised around AD 140. He was also probably baptised by the bishop of Smyrna at that time (Polycarp) who was a personal disciple of the Apostle John, who had died only a few decades before.
Some quotes from the early church:
"He [Jesus] came to save all through himself; all, I say, who through him are reborn in God infants, and children, and youths, and old men. Therefore he passed through every age, becoming an infant for infants, sanctifying infants; a child for children, sanctifying those who are of that age . . . [so that] he might be the perfect teacher in all things, perfect not only in respect to the setting forth of truth, perfect also in respect to relative age" (Irenaeus, Against Heresies 2:22:4 [AD 189]).
"Where there is no scarcity of water the stream shall flow through the baptismal font or pour into it from above; but if water is scarce, whether on a constant condition or on occasion, then use whatever water is available. Let them remove their clothing. Baptise first the children, and if they can speak for themselves let them do so. Otherwise, let their parents or other relatives speak for them" (Hippolytus, The Apostolic Tradition 21:16 [AD 215]).
"The Church received from the apostles the tradition of giving baptism even to infants. The apostles, to whom were committed the secrets of divine sacraments, knew there is in everyone innate strains of [original] sin, which must be washed away through water and the Spirit" (Origen, Commentaries on Romans 5:9 [AD 248]).
"What the universal Church holds, not as instituted [invented] by councils but as something always held, is most correctly believed to have been handed down by apostolic authority. Since others respond for children, so that the celebration of the sacrament may be complete for them, it is certainly availing to them for their consecration, because they themselves are not able to respond" (Augustine, On Baptism, Against the Donatists 4:24:31 [AD 400]).
I've got heaps more quotes like that. To say that infant baptism is bad is to say that the Christian Church went off the rails right from the start.
g) No one, apparently, was claiming that the practice was contrary to Scripture or tradition. If infant baptism was opposed to the religious practices of the first believers, why do we have no record of early Christian writers condemning it? There were plenty of other controversies in the first centuries of Christianity (e.g. the nature of Christ, the Trinity, the Canon of Scripture, the gnostic heresies, etc) all of which we have lots of writings about. Why no record of disputes about infant baptism?
h) Even the early Protestant Reformers (like Luther and Calvin) were in favour of infant baptism. The issue did not become controversial until quite late in the history of Christianity.
"Little children . . . are free in every way, secure and saved solely through the glory of their baptism . . . Through the prayer of the believing church which presents it, . . . the infant is changed, cleansed, and renewed by inpoured faith. Nor should I doubt that even a godless adult could be changed, in any of the sacraments, if the same church prayed for and presented him, as we read of the paralytic in the Gospel, who was healed through the faith of others [Mark 2:3-12]. I should be ready to admit that in this sense the sacraments of the New Law are efficacious in conferring grace, not only to those who do not, but even to those who do most obstinately present an obstacle." (Martin Luther, The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, 1520).
"In order to make a pickle, the vegetable should be first dipped (‘bapto’) into the boiling water, and then ‘baptized’ (‘baptizo’) into the vinegar solution."Clearly, a distinction is intended, a distinction that is also applied in the New Testament sense. We observe, for example, that the four occasions in the New Testament where ‘bapto’ appears all describe the action of dipping (Luke 16:24, John 13:26 [twice], and Revelation 19:13). However, of the eighty-four examples of ‘baptizo’, we discover that eighty-two refer specifically to the undefined action of ‘baptising’ (be they examples of immersing or not), whilst another two (Mark 7:4 and Luke 11:38) refer specifically to circumstances where ‘immersion’ was clearly not intended by the context. The outcome is plain. It is the individual context in which the word is used in a given passage, which determines the intended meaning of the word within that passage.
Also, you talk a lot about the baptism of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 2:17, 18 and 33 the word describing the way that that baptism (of the Spirit) was applied to the disciples is not baptizo but ekcheo, meaning poured out. So this was definitely a baptism, but was described as being done by pouring rather than by immersion.
Paul was possibly baptised in a house (Acts 9:17-18) and standing up when it happened ("He got up and was baptised", vs. 18). Some of the other household baptisms mentioned in the NT might have been inside as well, yet bathtubs and swimming pools weren't fixtures of ancient homes.
When Peter gave his first sermon, three thousand people were baptised in Jerusalem (Acts 2:41), but archaeologists have demonstrated that there was not a sufficient supply of water for these baptisms to have been by immersion. "Jerusalem...differed from the other large cities of that province [Syria] in one important respect, that it lay in a part of the country quite extraordinarily unfavourable for trade...Most serious of all, water was lacking. Jerusalem possesses only one spring of any importance, that of Siloah in the south. Water had to be bought by the measure in times of drought, and even in normal times it had to be used carefully from the cisterns or had to be brought from a distance by means of aqueducts" (Joachim Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus). Even if there had been enough water to immerse three thousand people, it is unlikely that the residents of Jerusalem would have let their city's only water supply be polluted by having three thousand sweaty bodies plunged into it. So these people may also have been baptised by pouring or sprinkling. Similarly, Samaria apparently did not have enough water in one place to immerse even one believer, let alone the large numbers of people referred to in Acts 8:12.
Besides all that, what about the bedridden and dying? They can't be immersed in water, so is baptism to be denied them? What about desert nomads and the Eskimos? Are they to be denied the sacrament because baptism by immersion is nearly impossible for them?
And again, the practice of pouring or sprinkling was used in the very early church, and I've got a whole 'nother set of quotes from 70 AD (when some of the Apostles were probably still around) and onwards to prove that. I think that immersion brings out the idea of regeneration and being washed clean better than any other way, but we'd agree with Church teaching that it's not the only way to proceed.
And there's also a whole bunch of early Christian artworks (mosaics, paintings in the catacombs, engravings etc.) from the first two hundred years of Christianity that show baptism - but it's usually baptism by pouring!
Penance is like an "offering" to God for the pardoning of the temporal (here and now) effects of our sin, and a sign of our repentance. We are told to "Produce fruit in keeping with repentance" (Luke 3:8), but this doesn't take away from what Christ did for us on the cross. The Council of Trent, talking about penance, declared: "Neither is this satisfaction so our own as not to be through Jesus Christ. For we can do nothing of ourselves; He cooperating strengthens us (Phil 4:13) . . . No Catholic ever thought that, by this kind of satisfactions on our parts, the efficacy of the merit and of the satisfaction of our Lord Jesus Christ is either obscured or in any way lessened."
As for the Church being able to assign penance, Jesus gave Peter and the disciples the power and authority to "bind and loose" (Mt 16:19, 18:17-18). In 1 Cor 5:3-5 Paul imposes a penance for the well-being of a straying Christian. He also talks about suffering for the sake of the church (Col 1:24). And have a look at 1 Peter 4:1: "Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin."
(There's a bit more on this topic in Point 16 below, or see my Confession page).
For more on this, see my Purgatory page.
Besides, how do you know what the Word of
God is? Who do you think defined the canon of the Bible (i.e. the
books that should be included in it)? It was the Catholic Church,
which was guided by the Holy Spirit (just like Christ promised when he
said the Spirit would lead the church into all truth (John 16:13)).
The canon was defined at the 3rd Council of Carthage in 397 AD (and a few
times before that at well). There were a whole lot of false gospels
and epistles before then that had to be weeded out. If the Church
was not infallible at this point, then the infallibility of the Word of
God becomes suspect, because apart from the Church, how do we know what
books should actually be in the Bible? So if you think the Bible
is infallible (as I'm sure you do, like us) then you have to admit that
the Church was infallible in deciding on the Canon of Scripture.
(For more on this, see my Canon of Scripture page).
(For more on this, see my Canon of Scripture page).
Besides that, the Catholic Church does not in fact contradict Scripture in its teachings, so the problem you pose doesn't exist (although I realise a lot of people will beg to differ!). The Catholic Church is also the world's oldest ongoing human institution, and while there have been some bad individuals in the Church, it has endured, all of which testifies to the Holy Spirit's divine protection (just as Christ promised). Finally, Paul describes the church of the living God as "the pillar and foundation of the truth" (1 Tim 3:15).
(For more on the "pagan influences" stuff, see my Catholicism and Paganism page.)
Besides, Paul said he came to preach "Christ crucified" (1 Cor 1:23), and he also said "I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified" (1 Cor 2:2).
Actually, now I think about it, our alphabet comes from a pagan society; does that mean we shouldn't use it? And our numerical system is Arabic - should we stop counting? And did you know that the practice of exchanging rings in marriage is pagan in origin? So long as it is no longer being used to honour a pagan god, there is nothing wrong with taking an aspect of something non-Christian and using it in a Christian context. For example, Paul spent a great deal of time proving to his readers that Christians could eat food (usually meat) that had been offered to idols because "We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one." (1 Cor. 8:4). Thus Christians who were strong in faith could eat such food because they recognised that no pagan gods exist and such food therefore brings them no honour (see Rom. 14, and 1 Cor. 8).
Besides all that, there is nothing wrong with repetition in itself - in Rev 4:8 it talks about the angels around the throne of God: "Day and night they never stop saying: 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.'" That's quite a bit of repetition, wouldn't you say? And there's Psalm 136, where the refrain is "His love endures forever" in 26 straight verses.
As for long prayers, the ones Jesus condemns in Matthew 23:14 are the ones done for show or pretence. Again, there's nothing wrong with long prayers if they are sincere (e.g. Psalm 119, a prayer which I think is also longest chapter in the Bible).
I found that whole issue to be an interesting point (by the way, the rest of the quotes in this letter are from the NIV).
In some other letter, maybe we could have a bit of fun debating the "traditional" Protestant idea of sola Scriptura (the Bible alone, as interpreted by the faithful believer) compared with the Catholic idea which could be phrased as sola Dei verbum (the Word of God alone, which includes Scripture, Apostolic Tradition, and the teaching Magisterium of the Church).
This applies especially to ministers of the gospel. When Paul was giving Timothy advice about his ministry, he said: "Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs-he wants to please his commanding officer." (2 Tim. 2:3-4). Also see Matthew 19:10, where Jesus says "...others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven" - would you condemn the Church for allowing people to follow what Jesus said here?.
A good proof-text is Luke 22:19, ("And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ''This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me"). I would say that this clearly demonstrates the Catholic position, where Jesus says the bread is his body and commands us to continue the sacrament (he doesn't say "This represents my body"). There's also the other Last Supper accounts which say much the same thing (Matt 26:26-28; Mark 14:22, 24; 1 Cor 11:23-25 and Lk 22:19-20).
Then there's 1 Cor 10:16 - "Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?" (By the way, the word "Eucharist" means "thanksgiving".)
And even more strongly than that, there's 1 Corinthians 11:27-29, which says "Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself." Sounds to me like Paul's talking about the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. You wouldn't be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord if it was just a symbol.
There's also John 6:47-66. I won't quote the whole thing, but it's worth looking at. John 6:55 - "For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink". The people Jesus was talking to found this difficult to believe (by the way, one of my favourite quotes now if something happens that I don't understand or don't like is "This is a hard doctrine!" from John 6:60). I think that this is actually the only place in the New Testament where the followers of Jesus abandoned Him for theological reasons (Jn 6:66). But when they started arguing about what he meant (vs 52), instead of clearing up their misunderstandings and explaining that he was only talking symbolically (which he maybe should have done if he was just being metaphorical), he reiterates his teaching several more times. In fact, after vs 53, Jesus uses an even stronger Greek word for "eat"; he switches from using phago (which just means "eat") to using trogo which means "gnaw" or "chew". Notice too that there are other places where Jesus just repeats a true but unpopular teaching, such as Matthew 9:2-7, where he talks about his power to forgive sins, and John 8:56-58, where he talks about his eternal existence.
Protestant churches tend to say that this whole "Bread of Life" passage is symbolic, while Catholics emphasise the literal language used. My personal opinion is that it is both metaphorical and literal - there are elements of both.
There is some more Biblical evidence in favour of the Catholic teaching on the Eucharist. In Genesis 14:18 it says "Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High", and then in the prophesy of Psalm 110:4, "the LORD has sworn and will not change his mind: 'You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.'" Taken together, these passages could be saying that Jesus will make an offering of bread and wine forever. Since Christ did make this offering at the Last Supper and commanded His followers to keep doing it, it is quite possible that the Mass is the sacramental, supernatural continuance of Christ's own self-sacrifice. (The relationship between Jesus and Melchizedek is also mentioned in Hebrews 5:6,10; 6:20; and 7:1-28, by the way).
Another bit is Malachi 1:11 - "'My name will be great among the nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to my name, because my name will be great among the nations', says the LORD Almighty." This is a prophecy about an on-going, universal, pure offering, as in Catholic teaching, not a symbolic gesture.
And finally, it has been the universal consensus of the Christian Church for the first 1500 years of its existence that in Communion the bread and wine really is changed into the body and blood of Christ.
Ignatius of Antioch, who died in AD 110 and was a disciple of both Peter and John, wrote about the Gnostic heretics of his time:
(For more on this, see my Eucharist page.)16. Confession - you said "Someone on earth cannot forgive you for the sins you have committed against the Lord."
Other scriptures about confession include 2 Cor 5:18 - "All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation" and James 5:14-16 - "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed".
(For more on this see my Confession paper.)
It's true that Christ now intercedes for us before the throne in heaven, but he also has a presence here on earth, at least in the heart of every believer. And Hebrews 9:24, which you mentioned in your letter, talked about "a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one" - it doesn't condemn man-made sanctuaries; we should just never mistake them for the real one (heaven), of which our earthly churches or cathedrals can only ever be a pale imitation.
Besides, cathedrals are built to the glory of God. In the same way that an artist might paint a masterpiece or write a book to God's glory, an architect might build a cathedral. I think the grandeur of a beautiful cathedral does have a place in symbolising the grandeur of God, but equally I agree with you that it is not necessary for a true "gathering of the saints". Note though that church buildings have been around since the end of the first persecutions of believers (for example, I know of a church building in Nazareth dating from the early second century).
Another point - the consecrated Eucharist is in fact the body and blood of Christ, so he does dwell in a church building too, in the tabernacle. God the Father however, not having a physical presence, does of course not dwell in "houses made with hands".
The Temple that was prophesied as being "thrown down" in Mark 13:2 was the Temple built by Herod in Jerusalem, and it was thrown down in 70 AD by the Romans. I guess this passage could also refer to the fact that Christ with his death and resurrection abolished the need for the blood sacrifices of the Jews in their temple, and this may be the point of Hebrews 9.The Whore of Babylon.
All that stuff you wrote about on tongues from the Bible is great, and obviously it is a wonderful gift. But I disagree with at least one third of what you said when you wrote: "Tongues identifies the people of God...If you don't speak in tongues you don't have the Spirit...If you don't have the Spirit you are none of His." It's the middle bit I have the biggest problem with. And your proof-texts aren't all that compelling; John 4:23-24 and Jude 20 talk about praying and worshipping in spirit and in truth or in the Holy Spirit, but they don't mention tongues, and 1 Cor 14:14-15 says that when you are praying in tongues your spirit is praying (which we don't dispute), but it doesn't say that you are praying in the Holy Spirit (although I guess you probably are) and it also doesn't say that tongues is the only way in which your spirit prays. Paul also recommends praying with your mind as well.
In 1 Corinthians it seems that Paul wants to de-emphasise tongues a little, as maybe the church there was getting a bit carried away with that particular gift. I think he is also saying that tongues are not the only indication of the Holy Spirit. In 1 Cor 12:4-6 Paul says "There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men." He goes on to describe the different gifts, of which tongues is one (vs 10). "All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines" (vs 11). So maybe tongues is not the only work of the Spirit, and perhaps some people are given different spiritual gifts.
In 1 Cor 12:27-30 Paul says "Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But eagerly desire the greater gifts." It seems to me that not everyone shows all the gifts, but we are told to desire the greater ones. (By the way, the Good News Bible puts it like this: "Not everyone has the power to work miracles or to heal diseases or to speak in strange tongues or to explain what is said" - 1 Cor 12:29-30).
With regards to desiring the greater gifts: "I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy" (1 Cor 14:5 - note that he doesn't say "every one of you must speak in tongues"). "Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church... I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue" (1 Cor 14:12, 18-19).
My point is that tongues is not the be-all
and end-all, although it is still a marvellous gift. And remember,
the defining characteristic of a Christian is not tongues, but love (John
The best analysis of 1 Cor 12:29-30 that I know of, demonstrating that not
all believers have the gift of tongues, can be found here.
The best analysis of 1 Cor 12:29-30 that I know of, demonstrating that not all believers have the gift of tongues, can be found here.
I'm sorry that my reply is so long, but you raised a lot of points, and they deserved a decent response.
Please feel free to continue the dialogue. The truth has to be the most important thing, and I pray that both of us will continue to seek after it, because the more we know of the truth, the more we know of Jesus, right? And maybe we should join together in prayer for the unity of all Christians in that truth, so that as a universal (i.e. "catholic", ha ha) church, we can be a stronger witness to the rest of the world (John 17:23).
God bless you.
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