Some years back, when in college, I had a friend of the Charismatic persuasion kindly offer to teach me how to speak in tongues. He was quite sincere, and the offer was genuine, but I knew then and there, without a doubt, that what it was he wanted to teach me was not the same “speaking in tongues” that we read about in the Bible.
When the Apostles received the baptism of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, we read, “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance (Acts 2:4; ESV).” These tongues, we discern from the following verses, included the native languages of the Parthians and the Medes, the Elamites, Mesopotamians, Egyptians and Romans as well as half a dozen or more others (cf. vss 9-10). They were not unintelligible gibberings, or nonsensical shoutings and they most certainly were not taught to the apostles by some well-meaning friend. The Spirit Himself filled them with the ability to speak in these languages. It was, simply put, a miracle: a thing outside of the ordinary and at odds with the normal course of human affairs.
You can’t simply teach someone how to do something truly miraculous as if teaching a child their alphabet or training a cook. If someone offers to “teach” you how to do something miraculous, then we can know, of a certainty, that there is nothing truly miraculous about the ability.
This came to mind recently when reading about “Faith Healing” workshops where those claiming to be faith healers instruct others in how to practice faith healing techniques. Examining the issue online, one soon discovers that healing workshops are not unique to Christian circles, and that there are a great number of places where one can learn to heal themselves, heal others. One woman offered such courses for as low as $40 a session. Yet what is true of the Gift of Languages would seem equally true of actual miraculous healing abilities. If you can teach it to anyone, it can hardly be truly miraculous.
Relatedly, it seems as if faith healers tend to charge something for their services. One rabbinical faith healer in New York can be had for only $300 an hour. As God’s miracles, read about in the Bible, were the sort of things done in mere moments, one must suspect a “miracle” that takes longer than an hour to manifest, but people will pay for such things. Typically, of course, the purported miracle worker is not quite so blatant as to charge an hourly fee, but there always seems to be those willing to pay for the services of those who claim to have such gifts.
In the book of Acts, the apostle Peter was once offered money for the ability to impart miraculous abilities. We read: “Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, ‘Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.’ But Peter said to him, ‘May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God.’ (Acts 8:18-21; ESV)”
Now, on the one hand, God tells His people that they should give financial support to those who preach the Gospel. This was a principle taught in the tithes of the Old Testament (cf. Leviticus 18) and one Jesus gave to His church (cf. Luke 10:7; 1 Timothy 5:18). Yet, on the other hand, Jesus told His apostles to accept what was offered; He most certainly did not encourage them to charge by the hour, nor did any of them die wealthy and at ease in their mansions. The apostle Paul noted of himself that in his ministry, by earthly standards, he was hungry, impoverished and possessing of nothing (cf. 2 Corinthians 6:4-10). Though they had been given great gifts, the apostles all knew that the gifts of God were never for sale. As Peter noted, those who would think such a thing had no true part in the ministry of Christ.
Still today we should reject any who claim to be able to sell you a part in the ministry of Christ, whether it is selling forgiveness for your misdeeds, teaching you how to heal yourself and others, or asking for “love gifts” in exchange for their prayers on your behalf. Christ has never been for sale, and those who claim to be able to sell you Christianity are just trying to fleece you of your money.
The church of Christ invites you to come and worship and study with us at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis, Ohio. If you have any questions or comments, please share them with us. Our number is 740-446-1494.
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author.