Tongues: Prayer Language vs. Public Gift

The following is an easy-to-understand, helpful article from the website of Rev. Mel C. Montgomery. * (See Copyright notice below.)

Tongues: Prayer Language vs. Public Gift
By Rev. Mel C. Montgomery
www.brothermel.com

The most common question, or challenge, I receive from Christians who are unfamiliar with tongues, is to explain the term “prayer language,” and to prove its existence from Scripture. Somewhere in the last two thousand years, someone coined the term “Prayer Language” to differentiate private speaking in tongues from the public gift of speaking in tongues.

That there are two different kinds of tongues, private and public, is clear from the irreconcilable statements Paul writes about tongues. Paul first writes: For he [man] that speaketh in an unknown tongues speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him… I Cor 14:2.

But later in the same chapter Paul also writes: In the law it is written, with men of other tongues and other lips will I [God] speak unto this people [men]… I Cor. 14:21. In verse two, Paul describes tongues as man speaking to God. In verse 21, Paul describes tongues as God speaking to man.

The type of tongues where men speak in prayer and worship to God, and no other man understands him, is what we have come to call the “prayer language.”

Paul left us written instructions in I and II Corinthians directed first to the Church at Corinth and also to us today, clarifying the purpose and identifying the proper way of accommodating speaking in tongues. Paul told us:

• Paul said that he used his ability to speak in tongues to pray, and to worship God. [verse 15].
• He was thankful to God for the ability to pray and worship God in other tongues [verse 18].
• He found this to be a deeply spiritual and edifying experience [vs. 4].
• Jude agrees with Paul’s assessment of the edifying power of praying in tongues [Jude 20].
• Paul urged all of us to speak, pray, and worship God in other tongues, “I would that ye all spake with tongues…” [vs. 5].
• Nowhere does Paul tell us that he ever identified the “other tongue” in which he spoke.
• Nor does he mention that he ever preached a sermon to anyone in other tongues.
• Nowhere does he state that we should try to identify the “other tongue” in which we are speaking, or to attempt to preach sermons to others in it.

But Paul also gave some common sense instructions concerning tongues – the prayer language. For example, if someone were to stand up in the public assembly, and speak out loudly to God for an hour in tongues – the prayer language – such an exercise would be entirely pointless and a waste of time. In exercises of the prayer language, “no man understandeth him.” So the congregation would understand not a single word, and be bored to tears.

Have you ever been to a concert where they sang in a language you didn’t know? I did recently. I went to a free zydeko – Cajun music – concert. I assumed that this concert would be in English, but was disappointed to find once I got there, that it was to be entirely in French/Cajun.

I enjoyed the lively music, but after two minutes, my attention wandered because I didn’t understand a word of what was being sung. By the end of an hour, I ranged from being nearly asleep, to almost climbing the walls and wondering when this concert would ever end.

Such would be the same reaction from people forced to sit and listen to uninterpreted tongues for an hour. Paul pointed out an example like this, and said that in Church he would rather speak 5 words that everyone could understand than 10,000 words in uninterpreted tongues that no one could benefit from. Referring back to the French concert I attended, I would have to say the same. I would rather go to a concert where they sang five words I understood, than ten thousand words I couldn’t make heads or tails out of.

So Paul gave the common sense instruction, that if someone felt they had something to say in other tongues to the entire congregation, let him do so. However, if he speaks for awhile, and no one seems to be able to interpret what is being said, then for Heaven’s sake [my words not his] have the poor brother sit back down, “and let him speak to himself, and to God,” and don’t have him bore everyone to tears. [vs. 28]. Note that Paul said, “…let him speak to himself, and to God,” thus explaining that such a manifestation is simply the person speaking in the prayer language “to God,” and not the full Gift of Tongues in which God speaks to men.

It is at this point in the narrative where we begin to see tongues used for something other than prayer and praise. When there is something to be said to the entire congregation in other tongues, this is not a manifestation of the prayer language. In prayer man speaks to God. And there is no need to interpret for the public the contents of our private prayers to God. If it is a public manifestation of tongues, then it is a manifestation of the actual Gift of Tongues – one of the nine gifts of the Holy Spirit listed in Chapter 12.

In the case where the Gift of Tongues is manifested, the contents of the message will be a message from God to men [vs. 21]. In an instance of a message through the Gift of Tongues — from God to the congregation — Paul directed that such messages in tongues were to be allowed and accommodated in a public service, but the Holy Spirit directed him to set reasonable boundaries within which we are to stay.

Namely, realizing that it is possible that several people may simultaneously feel they have a message in tongues for the congregation, he limited the number of individuals allowed to participate to “two or at the most by three,” [vs. 27]. Paul added that one person should interpret [vs. 27]. The rules he laid down, like all of the instructions given in God’s Word, make perfect sense, and keep a service from getting off the track.

All Charismatics – currently numbering 537 Million Christians – have experienced the prayer language of speaking in tongues. All born-again Christians have the Holy Spirit indwelling them. However, there is a secondary experience that not all Christians have received. Indeed, many do not know that there even is another experience from God to be received.

Jesus called this experience that is to be received subsequent to [after] salvation, being “baptized with the Holy Ghost.” Acts 1:5. He called it the receiving of power, “…ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you…” Acts 1:8. Note that He said “upon you” not “in you.” The believer in Christ already has the Holy Spirit within them. But the Lord desires for the presence of His Spirit to be within us, but also that the power of His Spirit be upon us.

As it was in the days of the Bible, so is it still true today: When the Holy Spirit fell upon the born-again Christians back in Bible times, they received the ability to speak or pray in other tongues. Acts 2:3, 4; 10:46; 19:6. Likewise today, when the Holy Spirit’s power falls upon a born-again Christian, the believer immediately receives the ability to speak or pray in other tongues.

All Charismatic Christians have experienced this prayer language. Far fewer have ever experienced the full Gift of Tongues enabling them to speak a message in tongues to a congregation that was then interpreted into English.

Concerning many Christians receiving the prayer language of tongues but very few receiving the Gift of Tongues that is to be exercised by giving and interpreting messages in public services, Kenneth Hagin, Sr. made an interesting comment. Drawing from his own experience in 60 years of ministry, he reported that by the early 1950’s he had laid hands on over 10,000 people and personally heard them speak in tongues.

But out of them all, he noted that only two received the full Gift of speaking in diverse tongues, who then went ahead giving messages publicly in their local congregation. The other 9,998 received simply the prayer language, and continued to pray and worship with it.

There is a considerable difference both in Scripture and in experience between tongues – the personal prayer language, and tongues – the public Gift. In my case, my pastor laid his hands on me and prayed for me to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. I began to speak in tongues. I prayed in tongues, and worshiped God in other tongues. I never understood a single word of what I was speaking. Paul didn’t either. I Cor. 14:2, 14.

But not understanding what was being said in other tongues did not stop Paul or me from going ahead and praying in tongues and worshiping God in tongues. But this was all a private exercise of this ability. I never once was led to stand up in the congregation and speak out a message in tongues. I had received the prayer language, but not the full Gift of Diverse Kinds of Tongues.

Eight years later, I was preparing to leave Sister Goodwin’s house. (Alternate link: http://brothermel.com/thegoodwinsandme.aspx) She had been used for 60 years in speaking public messages in tongues and in interpreting them. She laid her hands on me, and prayed for God to use me in the Gifts of His Holy Spirit. I felt nothing imparted to me at that moment. But a few weeks later, the Gift of Speaking in tongues suddenly began to flow through me.

I would feel an urging rise up within me to speak in tongues. I would speak out under that urging for a few moments, and when the urging or the “unction” subsided, the English words of interpretation would arise within me, and I would speak out the interpretation. Since then, over the last 17 years, I’ve spoken hundreds of messages in tongues publicly, maybe more, and have interpreted just as many.

I can speak at will in my prayer language to God in prayer and worship, as can any other Charismatic. However, I cannot speak messages in tongues in public at will. Nor can I interpret messages in tongues at will. Speaking and interpreting in public is a manifestation of the two full-fledged Gifts of tongues and interpretation. Those Gifts operate only as the Holy Spirit wills. I Cor. 12:11.

I have ministered the baptism in the Holy Spirit to a number of born-again Christians over the years. All received the prayer language, meaning the ability to speak, pray, and worship in other tongues at will. None yet have received the full Gift of Speaking in Tongues. None have given public messages in tongues.

Yet there have been a number of times in which believers who pray in tongues but have never spoken a public message in tongues that was interpreted have suddenly begun manifesting the gift of tongues as they heard me teaching on spiritual gifts. As I taught, God imparted the Gift of Tongues to believers who had already prayed in tongues for years. To God be the glory for the great things He has done.

Refuting Counter-Arguments:

I have read every imaginable counter argument which tries to argue against there being two kinds or manifestations of tongues – private prayer, and public Gift. I haven’t found one yet that takes into account all of the words of Christ, all of the examples in the Book of Acts, and all of the instructions Paul gave us.

One common argument is that all manifestations of speaking in tongues are those of men speaking in prayer to God. That argument is silent though concerning I Cor. 14:21 which says, “With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people.” If tongues is always men speaking unto God, then surely God is not going to pray a prayer to Himself!

Others try to explain away this Scripture by claiming that it refers to a person standing up in a public assembly, praying to God in other tongues, and then someone else interpreting the prayer back to the congregation in the local language. But what possible purpose would there be in interpreting someone’s private prayers for the public to listen to? For that matter, why pray in tongues and have it interpreted into the language of the congregation? Why not just pray in the language everyone knows?

Any way you care to look at it, you have to admit that Paul indicated two different functions of speaking in tongues:

• Prayer from man to God.
• And messages from God to man.
• When man prays to God in tongues, “no man understandeth him.”
• When God speaks to man through other tongues, no man will necessarily understand the tongue, unless God simultaneously gives the interpretation to another.
• This same pattern of private prayer and public Gift is demonstrated in the New Testament, throughout the Early Church, resurfacing again and again during revivals over the course of centuries of Church History, and continuing among the 537 million born-again Christians who currently speak in tongues.

* Copyright 2006 Mel C. Montgomery. All rights reserved. Material may be copied and shared with others as long as it is done so without charge, in entirety, and if attribution is given. Source: www.brothermel.com.
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About the Author

The ministry of author, reformer, lecturer, entrepreneur, and revivalist preacher, Mel Montgomery is an example of God fulfilling a word of prophecy. Mel was mentored in ministry by Sister Goodwin. She and her late husband, the Rev. J.R. Goodwin had sat in meetings conducted by Smith Wigglesworth, Raymond T. Richey, and other early Pentecostals.

Then God had used the Goodwins as a bridge to the leaders of the Word of Faith move. The Goodwins taught John Osteen and Kenneth Hagin Sr. about the gifts of the Spirit. Kenneth Hagin patterned his prophetic ministry after the spiritual flow he had witnessed in the Goodwins.

Before her passing, Sister Goodwin laid her hands on Mel, asked God to use him in spiritual gifts, and prophesied that Mel would have “a strong ministry, and an anointed ministry, like some of the men of old.”

Years after Sister Goodwin’s passing, the Goodwin descendants and others asked Mel to host on his website rare audio recordings of early Pentecostal preachers that were recorded at the Goodwins’ church and elsewhere. Mel uploaded the recordings to his website, http://www.brothermel.com, making these treasures available to the world by download, for free.

Mel’s message and concept of ministry began to change as he listened to the recordings of the “men of old” like Howard Carter, Stanley Frodsham, F.F. Bosworth, the Goodwins, and others. He discovered that what the Pentecostal giants preached bears little resemblance to the extreme teachings common today in the Charismatic and Word of Faith branch of Christianity to which he belongs.

Sister Goodwin’s prophecy is fulfilled as Mel continues to speak in churches, preaching as did the “men of old,” the transforming power of the Cross and Pentecost. He authors articles and e-books, identifying which of our teachings are biblical and which ones are not. Brother Mel calls for a Reformation in Charismatic and Word of Faith circles.

Mel’s teachings have been well received, with some being translated and published in foreign countries. In 2007 and 2008, Mel’s website received over 723,000 hits from people in 78 countries. Mel’s monthly e-mail newsletter currently goes out to subscribers around the world.

Copyright Mel C. Montgomery. All rights reserved.

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Keep on keeping on

Or, God’s timetable isn’t like ours…

Luke Chapter 1 tells the story of an old man named Zecharias. He was married to an old woman named Elizabeth who was a relative of the Virgin Mary. They lived in the hill country of Judah, exact location unknown.

Both were of the priestly line. They had no children – Elizabeth was barren, and in their culture barrenness was considered a punishment for sin. Yet both were righteous in God’s eyes, and to the best of their ability they continued to worship Him, keeping the law.

Zecharias (and no doubt Elizabeth) had long prayed for a son. But, he was old and she was barren, so it was now impossible. So, was he still praying? He was still faithful to do his job, in any case.

One supposedly ordinary day Zecharias was going about his business, doing his ordinary priestly job. This soon became an other than ordinary day for him, however…

“Now it came about, while he was performing his priestly service before God in the appointed order of his division, according to the custom of the priestly office, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense.” (Luke 1:8, 9)

It was his turn to minister before the golden altar of incense in the Holy Place, possibly for the first time in his priestly service. With so many priests serving in the Temple, entering the Holy Place and kindling the incense upon the golden altar was possibly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared to Zacharias, standing to the right of the altar of incense. The angel gave him an extraordinary message, on this extraordinary day. His prayers had been answered; he and Elizabeth would have a child. And not just an ordinary child, an extraordinary son. He was to give him the name John. Read the chapter for yourself.

Some thoughts about Zecharias:

  • He was old. So was his wife.
  • He was childless, thought by the culture to be a punishment for sin.
  • He was considered by God to be righteous, however. Blameless.
  • He had prayed for a son, starting in the days when having a child was still possible, biologically speaking.
  • He was faithful to his job, his calling, despite that disappointment.
  • He was granted favor, mercy, compassion; an answer to his prayer.
  • His prayer wasn’t answered in an ordinary way, in an ordinary location – an angel came to his job site, while he was doing his job; being faithful to do his job.
  • He was human; he doubted the angel’s message. Considering his age and the length of time he had been praying, that was a quite understandable response.
  • He was corrected but not condemned for his doubt.
  • He wasn’t removed from his ordinary job, or replaced in his extraordinary new job: being a parent. A very old parent!
  • He was granted a device to help him assuage his doubt: silence until the baby was born.

How long have we prayed the same prayer, over, and over, and over? How often have we decided to give up, quit doing this job, quit worshiping, quit praying, quit believing? Until it will take a supernatural, extraordinary miracle for it to happen?

But those do still happen. Zecharias and Elizabeth were just two of many people who received miraculous answers to prayer.

Never quit being faithful to your current assignment. Never quit praying. Never quit believing.

Intercession, one definition

Esther's Petition

This week as I was thinking about intercession and how it’s different from other types of prayer, the Holy Spirit spoke clearly and distinctly to me.

“Interceding is My interfering with the schemes of the enemy.”

It’s God’s method to scotch the devil’s activities on earth. Prevention, intervention, substitution, whatever is needed for the situation. God’s way of throwing monkey wrenches into the devil’s designs.

It is not just praying what God says to pray, although it includes that. It is speaking what God says to speak – to the enemy, to circumstances, to your own spirit / soul / body, to other people (their spirit / soul / body), to whatever.

It’s different from petitions, which may be our own desires and needs for ourselves, our family or friends. That’s certainly not prohibited, it’s encouraged. It’s just not all there is to prayer.

Relax, be watchful, be mindful, be…

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Have you forgotten?

Symptoms of a “persecution complex” continue to pop up here and there on social media platforms, even affecting some believers who should know better.

Don’t they know what real persecution is? (Torture? Beheading? Bombings? Destruction of homes, whole communities, houses of worship? Murder of children?)

Differences of opinion and criticism simply don’t qualify. Yes, we should stand firm for what we believe. No, we shouldn’t react with drama, outrage, smart alecky or vile responses. A few reminders are needed, I suspect:

  • “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12 NIV)
  • “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:44-45)
  • “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign the members of his household!” (Matt. 10:24-25 NASB)
  • “Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.” (Luke 6:22-23 NIV)
  • “Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets. But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” (Luke 6:26-28)
  • “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” (Romans 12:14)
  • “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:17-18)
  • “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Tim. 3:12)
  • “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.”  (I Peter 4:12-14)

Comfort / Comforter

Comforter ComforterRescuer

What kind of comfort do you need?

The origin of the English word comfort from the Oxford online dictionary: “Middle English (as a noun, in the senses of strengthening, support, consolation; as a verb, in the senses of strengthen, give support, console): from Old French confort (noun) or conforter (verb), from late Latin confortare, strengthen, from com- (expressing intensive force) + Latin fortis, strong. The sense of something producing physical ease arose in the mid 17th century.”

Thus scriptural comfort is a reinforcement of strength – mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical.

In 2 Corinthians 1:4 the Apostle Paul said this about comfort:

  • “who (i.e. the God of all comfort, v. 3) comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” (KJV)
  • “who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (NIV)
  • “who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (NASB)
  • “who comforts and encourages…” (AMP)

Note: The KJV word tribulation in this verse is from the Greek word thlipsis, meaning pressure, oppression, affliction, distress, straits; it’s translated trouble or affliction in other versions.

Comfort here is from the Greek word paraklesis (G3874, noun), defined in Strong’s as meaning:

– a calling near, summons, (esp. for help); importation, supplication, entreaty; exhortation, admonition, encouragement
– consolation, comfort, solace; that which affords comfort or refreshment
– thus of the Messianic salvation (so the Rabbis call the Messiah the consoler, the comforter)
– persuasive discourse, stirring address
– instructive, admonitory, conciliatory, powerful hortatory discourse

John 14:16-17 (NIV) says, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever — the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”

Advocate here in the NIV is translated Comforter in the King James Version. It is from the Greek word paraklatos (G3875, noun), defined in Strong’s as:

– one who is summoned, called to one’s side, esp. called to one’s aid
– one who pleads another’s cause before a judge, a pleader, counsel for defense, legal assistant, an advocate
– one who pleads another’s cause with one, an intercessor
– of Christ in his exaltation at God’s right hand, pleading with God the Father for the pardon of our sins
– in the widest sense, a helper, succourer, aider, assistant
– of the Holy Spirit destined to take the place of Christ with the apostles (after his ascension to the Father), to lead them to a deeper knowledge of the gospel truth, and give them divine strength needed to enable them to undergo trials and persecutions on behalf of the divine kingdom

John used this word to describe the Holy Spirit. It is translated Comforter in KJV, Advocate in NIV, Helper in NASB, and Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby) in the Amplified Version. He is all that, in every imaginable variation and circumstance.

What kind of comfort did Peter need?

  • Understanding, wisdom, speaking ability, revelation knowledge
  • Angel for a jailbreak…

5 So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him. 6 The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. 7 Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists. 8 Then the angel said to him, “Put on your clothes and sandals.” And Peter did so. “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me,” the angel told him. 9 Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. 10 They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him. (Acts 12:5-8 NIV)

What kind of comfort did Paul need?

  • Understanding, supernatural information, healing from beatings, resurrection from stoning, deliverance from mobs
  • Earthquake for a jailbreak…

25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!” 29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:25-30 NIV)

See the Book of Acts for these and many other examples. Also see I Corinthians 12 for Gifts of the Holy Spirit, i.e. God’s power tools, equipment, supplies, inside information, wisdom and weaponry.

God the Holy Spirit, the believer’s indwelling Comforter / Helper / Assistant / Intercessor / Strengthener does more than just bring emotional calmness and peace of mind which is what most people today tend to think of as comfort, although he certainly does that.

And he isn’t just called alongside to help, he’s INSIDE to help.

So – what kind of comfort do you need?

Antioch Christians

AntiochAncientCityThe disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.

“Meanwhile, the believers who had been scattered during the persecution after Stephen’s death traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch of Syria. They preached the word of God, but only to Jews.

20 However, some of the believers who went to Antioch from Cyprus and Cyrene began preaching to the Gentiles[f] about the Lord Jesus. 21 The power of the Lord was with them, and a large number of these Gentiles believed and turned to the Lord.

“22 When the church at Jerusalem heard what had happened, they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw this evidence of God’s blessing, he was filled with joy, and he encouraged the believers to stay true to the Lord. 24 Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith. And many people were brought to the Lord.

“25 Then Barnabas went on to Tarsus to look for Saul. 26 When he found him, he brought him back to Antioch. Both of them stayed there with the church for a full year, teaching large crowds of people. (It was at Antioch that the believers were first called Christians.)” (Acts 11:19-26, NLT)

Antioch was the Roman capital of Syria and the third greatest city in the Roman Empire after Rome and Alexandria, at the time of Paul and Barnabas. It was located on the banks of the Orontes River and at the junction of two mountain ranges. Antioch had grown to be a major Roman crossroads of civilization and power.

AncientAntiochA metropolis of between 200,000 and 400,000 people at the time of Christ, Antioch was called the Queen of the East, a sophisticated political, commercial, cultural – and religious center. “About five miles distant from the city was the suburb of Daphne, a spot sacred to Apollo and Artemis. This suburb, beautified by groves and fountains, and embellished by the Seleucids and the Romans with temples and baths, was the pleasure resort of the city, and ‘Daphnic morals’ became a by-word.” (BibleHub.com)

This great city was home to many pagan religions and housed many pagan temples. A great deal of money was to be had catering to the frequent traveling worshipers through the area.

At the time of Paul and Barnabas, those religions included Judaism and a new religion initially thought of as an offshoot of Judaism, followers of Jesus Christ – their worshipers enjoying relative peace, being tolerated by the multi-cultural Roman Empire of the day.

The word Christian means “Christ follower, of the household of Christ, or a partisan of Christ.”

But those who called them that didn’t mean it as a compliment, but as an insult. People using that term may never have seen Jesus themselves. They didn’t know him, but obviously they had heard something about him. Things like:

“How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.” (Acts 10:38 NIV)

“And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatick, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them.” (Matthew 4:24 KJV)

So, what did the people of Antioch see? They saw the acts of people who did know Jesus, people like Paul and Barnabas.

  • The blind could now see.
  • The deaf could now hear.
  • The dumb could now speak.
  • The crippled were now strong and healthy.
  • Liars no longer lied.
  • Robbers no longer robbed.
  • Cheaters no longer cheated.
  • Idol worshipers no longer worshiped idols.

The people of Antioch no doubt asked, “What happened?” The people who had been changed could answer that question. Jesus happened!

When Jesus saves a person, he inhabits them by way of the Holy Spirit, and he changes their behavior and character from the inside out.  (John 14:23, II Corinthians 5:17)

Now the disciples in Antioch were doing the same things that Jesus had done – healing the sick, casting out demons, cleansing the lepers and raising the dead. Jesus had taught the disciples how to do those things themselves, empowered them and sent them out to do them.

And so they did, in Antioch and elsewhere. Paul’s own testimony includes, “… by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of His Spirit. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ.” (Romans 15:19 NIV)

When the people of Antioch saw believers doing the same things that Jesus the Christ had done, they mockingly called them Christians. Soon enough that insult became a badge of courage.

Because it became obvious that the lives of these new believers were very different from everyone else’s in Antioch. Wouldn’t you think that was wonderful? Well, not if you made your living off of sin… the worship of idols, for example. And so persecution soon followed.

People today may not recognize a Christian the same way Antioch did. While they may see changed habit patterns and changed character, they may not really expect to see today’s believers doing supernatural things.

But Jesus is the same now as he ever was. (Hebrews 13:8) When he is allowed to, he does the same things through his disciples today that he did then. (Matthew 10:7-8, 28:18-20) And more and more around the world, people are seeing those things.

I truly want to be an “Antioch” Christian.

To read more about this key city of the early Christian faith, click on these links:
http://www.pbs.org/empires/peterandpaul/footsteps/footsteps_3_1.html
http://biblehub.com/topical/a/antioch.htm
http://libaniusredux.blogspot.com/2010_05_01_archive.html

High things, anti knowledge of God

Acrocorinth_And_Temple_of_Apollo

Acrocorinth mountain fortress (one Temple of Aphrodite was located there), with the Temple of Apollo below. Both were in ruins at the time of Paul’s visits.

“Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” (II Cor. 10:5)

Paul was quite familiar with “high things” in Corinth, high places such as the walled summit of Acrocorinth as well as the various temples to gods like Aphrodite, Apollo and Poseidon. Their worshipers sought love, peace, and protection with many forms of worship, including temple prostitution.

Worshipers sought success in life, whether it was good weather and good crops for farmers, safety in sailing the seas, excellent sales for merchants, the right mate, healthy children, good government, peace and calm, freedom from war.

Whatever the need, there was a temple to that god. Right worshiping, right offerings, right behavior – those were sure to produce right results. Right? Maybe not.

For “high things” Paul used the Greek word  hýpsoma, meaning an elevated place, height or high thing. Specifically it referred to an elevated structure, a barrier, rampart, or bulwark, high things such as walls built for protection around cities, temples, or castles. They were barricades to keep people out.

Only one other New Testament verse uses this word and there it is translated height: “Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:39)

Temples made with hands were everywhere in Corinth, just as in Athens, Rome, and Ephesus. Operating these temples was big business in this prosperous Roman colony. Who did this foreigner think he was, saying they were fakes? False? Phony?

Paul preached “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands.” (Acts 17:24) Persecution was the inevitable result for Paul and the new Christians, then as it is today. Truth isn’t popular when it comes to big business, big money from immoral worship.

Everyone I know wants love, peace, protection and provision, including me. And they are indeed available, but not from false believing, not from false gods or false worship. Believing the wrong things puts up a barricade to experiencing and knowing the true God, his love, mercy, forgiveness, grace and power.

Paul warned about those wrong “high things” everywhere he went, including Corinth.

corinthThe following is from PBS (In the footsteps of Peter and Paul) about the city of Corinth and Paul’s visits there: http://www.pbs.org/empires/peterandpaul/footsteps/footsteps_6_1.html

“After this he went to Corinth. Here he met a Jew named Aquila, who, with his wife Priscilla, had come from Italy recently because Claudius had ordered that all Jews leave Rome.”

“Paul approached them and, because they were of the same trade, he stayed with them and worked with them. They were tentmakers. He also engaged in discussions in the synagogue each Sabbath, attempting to win over both Jews and Greeks.” (Acts 18.1-4, 11)

Paul could have approached Corinth from Athens by land or by sea. After settling in, he spent his days in Corinth plying his trade and preaching in the synagogues with his hosts Aquila and Priscilla. The couple had left Rome with the Jews expelled by the emperor Claudius, and like Paul they were tentmakers. The tents they made or repaired would have been in demand for soldiers, travelers, and market stalls. Large, heavy and colorful, the tents were usually made from leather and heavy canvases.

The rhythm of city life in the Mediterranean would have found Paul at work from early morning until midday, leaving off work in the hot hours of the afternoon, and resuming later in the day. For eighteen months he built his community in Corinth, and he would return to Corinth more than once over the next years. When he left, he was joined by his friends Priscilla and Aquila. Paul was headed back to Antioch, but the couple would stay in Ephesus, and found a fledgling Jesus community there.

Located on the south side of the isthmus connecting the Peloponnese to the mainland, at the foot of a mountain fortress, Corinth was the capital of the Roman province of Achaia. A great lighthouse and Temple to Poseidon guided ships into the harbors, to fill the city markets and the warehouses down on the wharves with merchandise from the around the empire and beyond — spices from India, silk from China, linen from Tarsus, local Corinthian marble and variegated marble from Turkey, Greece, and North Africa, timber from Italy, and wine and olive oil, fruits and vegetables from fertile fields of Corinth.

Ships were dragged across the isthmus on a road called the diolkos, and in 67, Nero would begin to build a canal — using the labor of 6,000 Jewish prisoners from Judea — though it was never finished in antiquity. The city had made a remarkable comeback after its total destruction at the hands of the Romans in 146 BCE. The entire city had been razed-its people killed or enslaved.

Julius Caesar revived the city as a colony in 44 BCE, and by the mid-first century CE, Corinth had the largest population in Greece, a population that would swell with visiting sailors and merchants to the ports, and tourists attending the festivals of athletic games. Corinth served the nearby Isthmian games, an ancient international athletic festival held every two years. Dedicated to Poseidon, the victor’s prize was a crown of wild celery. Contests included chariot and foot races, and literary contests.

The games were revived in the Roman period, and added to with games in honor of Caesar. Two days journey from Corinth was the city of Epidauros, which had one of the most important sanctuaries to Asklepios, the god of healing. Pilgrims would come from around the empire in hopes of healing.

Because of its great wealth and transitory population, Corinth had a reputation for luxury, and uninhibited pleasures. This reputation was further bolstered by the city’s association with Aphrodite — her image appeared on the city’s coinage, and Corinth had at least three temples to the goddess of love, including one on the very high summit of Acrocorinth, where she held a shield before her like a mirror.

In addition, the harbors had their own temples to the goddess of love. In pre-Roman times, one temple of Aphrodite was served by temple prostitutes, and, though modern scholars debate whether ritual prostitution had ceased by the time of Paul’s arrival, there is little doubt that prostitution would have thrived. Brothels have been excavated in several Roman cities, including Pompeii and Ephesus.

But Aphrodite was important to the city in other ways, too. Born out of the sea, she could protect the sailors and ships on which the city’s economy depended. And Julius Caesar, the city’s colonial patron, claimed descent from Venus, the Roman form of Aphrodite.

The new city of Corinth is located east of the ancient city. A canal was finally built through the isthmus in the late 19th century, but sections of the diolkos are still visible. The excavations at ancient Corinth give some idea of the city’s former prominence; a Temple to Apollo has standing columns, and some streets and market shops can evoke the flavor of the trade city.

Along one side of the Forum is a bema – a platform from which Roman officials would address the public. Here the governor may have refused to arrest Paul. There is a museum onsite.

The mountain fortress Acrocorinth still looms over the site, and the view from the summit is well worth the hike. Also on the summit are ruins of the Temple of Aphrodite, among others.

The fortifications on the mountain are, in the main, much later than the Roman period, but indicate the continued strategic importance of the site for centuries. The harbor town of Cenchreae is largely underwater, but warehouses and a sanctuary of Isis are visible.

Nearby Isthmia, site of the biannual athletic contests, has a museum and remains of the stadium, city walls, and the sanctuary of Poseidon. In Epidaurus, the sanctuary of Asklepius is undergoing excavation and some restoration. The well-preserved theater at Epidaurus presents live theater in the summer.

For more, also see http://www.padfield.com/2005/corinth.html