My Real Life Experiences with Spiritual Gifts: TONGUES, by Bob West

Divine Commentary

Sylvia and I were on our way to Cincinnati, Ohio. That's where our daughter Robynne and her family lived at the time. It may have been July 5, 1997. I'm not sure of the date, but I will never forget what happened.

"We're driving nine hours each way to see Robynne and her family, but we will hardly get to visit with them," I complained.

"We will have all weekend," Sylvia responded.

"We're going to a church picnic tomorrow, and to a Bible class and two church services Sunday," I observed. "We're making this long trip to spend most of the weekend with a lot of people we hardly know."

Robynne rushed out to greet us when we arrived at their house. "Hi Mom and Dad. You're just in time. We're leaving now for Bible study. It is at someone's home."

"Bible study?!! What is the topic?" I asked.

"First Corinthians 12."

That surprised me. I wondered why they would bother studying that chapter, since they don't think it applies today.

I was very tired. We had already driven for nine hours. Then we immediately drove to the home of someone I had never met and I was given a seat along with Sylvia and Robynne in a large, but crowded, living room / dining area. Apparently we were just in time for the class to begin, because as soon as we were seated their preacher came into the room and sat in the empty seat facing me.

I was really exhausted from the trip, surprised by an event I did not plan on, and felt manipulated. I prayed, "Lord Jesus, I don't feel comfortable here. Please help me through this weekend."

The preacher began the class by saying, "Tonight we're studying First Corinthians, chapter 12. Chapter 13 lets us know that gifts have ceased because the Bible is complete, so what Paul says here in chapter 12 about spiritual gifts doesn't apply to us today."

"Not true," I heard a small, but audible, Voice say inside my head.

For the next few minutes I heard this Voice continue to comment on the preacher's comments. The Lord's comment that I remember best is the one I heard after the preacher made the following comment: "In verse two Paul reminds the Corinthians about when they were people of the world. He told them, 'You were led astray after false gods which could not talk.'"

Then I heard the Holy Spirit speak very clearly and say, "They don't think their God can talk either."

The preacher continued to lecture for more than an hour on a subject he obviously didn't understand. After he finished, I heard some of the others ridiculing those who believe there are spiritual gifts today, especially speaking in tongues. This must have been breaking the Lord's heart.

Later when we were alone, I told Sylvia, "It certainly was a hostile environment for anyone who held a view that the class had not accepted."

"I was surprised you kept your mouth shut," Sylvia said.

"The Lord didn't want me to speak. They're not ready to receive. I wish I could have shared how the Lord responded to their doctrine, but they would have rejected that too," I said. "At one point during the class, I could hear a faint audible voice inside my head making comments on each thing the teacher said. This lasted for just a few minutes. One comment that really stood out was when the preacher read verse two."

"Where Paul said that the Corinthians used to worship dumb idols?" She asked.

"Yes," I said. "The Holy Spirit said to me, 'They don't think their God can talk either."

"That's amazing!" Sylvia exclaimed. "What a confirmation!"

I agreed. "And they think we're the ones who are being deceived by the devil!" I added.

Does 1 Corinthians 13:8-13 really say (as the preacher mentioned above declared) that miracles were just a partial or temporary measure put in place until the New Testament was complete? And now that we have the completed Bible, spiritual gifts have been done away?

First of all, nowhere in the immediate context of 1 Corinthians 13:8-13 does Paul talk about Scripture or the collection of books that became Scripture.

Second, we cannot say that because we have the completed Bible today that we see Christ face to face, nor can we say that we know fully even as we are fully known. If his view were correct, we would have to say that the apostle Paul saw but a poor reflection as in a mirror, but we see face to face; the apostle Paul knew in part but we know fully, even as we are fully known. Although we have the completed Bible today, would anyone seriously argue that our knowledge and experience of God is superior to Paul's?

God gave gifts to strengthen and build up the church (1 Corinthians 12:7; 14:26). Since edification is the primary purpose of spiritual gifts, how can anyone conclude that they have been taken away? If the gifts built up the church in the first century, why wouldn't they build up the church today?

The Bible's own statements about the purpose of spiritual gifts force us to conclude that they were meant to continue until the Lord returns. In 1 Corinthians 1:7 Paul suggests as much by connecting spiritual gifts to the return of Jesus. Here in 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 he goes beyond mere suggestion, however, and plainly states that spiritual gifts will not be taken away until Jesus returns.

The statement, "Then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known" in verse 12 can only refer to the Lord's return. The expression "face to face" refers to the time when we will see Jesus face to face (compare Genesis 32:30; Exodus 33:11; Numbers 14:14; Deuteronomy 5:4, 34:10; Judges 6:22; and Ezekiel 20:35). That time can only refer to His return, when every eye will see Him (Revelation 1:7).

Someone has asked, "Don't you think that if miracles did happen today they would be similar to the miracles described in the Bible? The dead would be raised. The deaf and dumb would be made to hear and speak with clarity."

My response: In reality, things like that -- and other examples just as remarkable are indeed happening today. You just haven't experienced them yourself.

And that is the real reason you believe miracles have ceased. The doctrine of cessation of spiritual gifts originated in experience -- a failure to see manifestations of the supernatural in one's own experience. But the fact that miracles are not a part of your own limited experience only proves that they are not part of your own limited experience, not that they have ceased to exist.

No one has picked up the Bible, started reading, and then came to the conclusion that God is not doing signs and wonders anymore or that the gifts of the Holy Spirit have passed away. That doctrine did not originate from a careful study of the Scriptures.

I was not surprised by anything said by the preacher or anyone else present at the "Bible study" that night in Cincinnati. During the 40 years I served in that denomination, I had made the same claims numerous times myself. I thank God that He opened my eyes and led me out of religious bondage into a personal relationship with Him and has given me spiritual gifts.

I still remember the freedom I felt after giving the Elders my letter of resignation. But, as I was to learn later, I was on a journey that had barely begun. And in time we found others from across the nation who were on the same journey.

One of the experiences I remember best happened in July 1989 in a restaurant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where several from our religious background had gathered just to talk. I made a comment about my mixed emotions over having come to the humbling realization that I had spent my life serving a man-made religious organization, thinking all the time that I was serving Jesus. I was so ashamed before God for all those wasted years. On the other hand, I was so grateful to the Lord for helping me struggle free from that system.

Dean Spurlock offered some words of encouragement. He told the story of a man, who at the age of 40, decided he would help God. He saw two of his brethren fighting, stepped between them, and scolded the man who was wrong. What happened next frightened him and he left the country. He wasn't yet ready to be used by God.

In this other country he got married and became a shepherd. Day after day for the next 40 years he cared for his father-in-law's sheep. One day he saw a bush that was afire and not burning up, and ran closer to see what was happening. Suddenly, he heard, "Moses, come no closer. Take off your shoes. You're standing on holy ground." He knew at once that God was talking to him.

You know the rest of the story. Moses, now 80 years old, was finally ready to be used by God.

"Maybe you're now ready for God to use you," Dean added.

One morning two years later in July 1991 my spiritual journey REALLY began! I heard the audible voice of God commanding me to do something I really didn't want to do. But when I obeyed, I received a miraculous healing and remembered a prophetic dream that I had received during the night. Later I would receive the interpretation to that dream. Many other dreams would follow. I will tell more about all that in another book.

Later that year, I told the Lord that I did not understand the spiritual gift of "tongues" or why anyone would want that gift, but if He wanted to give me that gift I was willing to receive it. I fully expected to begin speaking in tongues right then. But I did not. Two years later I did receive that gift. Now I understand...

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