Can’t Pour From the Jug What Isn’t In It

“My earnest advice to you is that you never make the attempt to extemporize without being sure of your matter. Of all the defects of utterance I have ever known the most serious is having nothing to utter” (Alexander from Thoughts on Preaching, as quoted in Broadus, Preparation and Delivery, p. 442).

Tongues as the Back of Our Hand

“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16: 11)

The Basket Case Chronicles #170

If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad? But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth” (1 Cor. 14:23–25).

Paul has just finished telling us that to have a bunch of people chattering in a language that you don’t understand is represented by Isaiah as a sign of judgment. He then moves on into application. If an unbeliever or an untutored person comes into your assembly, you should want the service to be edifying to them. But if everybody is speaking in tongues, the ungifted or unbelieving will simply dismiss you as being crazy. But this dismissal would indicate that they are under judgment—as we see with the people who dismissed the Christians on Pentecost as being drunk. But Paul does say that for the believers to pray in tongues in church together is a provocation—and that is not our calling.

On the other hand, if the words spoken in the service of words of intelligible prophecy, then unbeliever comes under the judgment of his own conscience, which is the way we avoid coming under the judgment of God. The secrets of his heart are laid bare by intelligible speech, and causes him to confess that God is indeed present.

This is why an assembly of Christians all speaking together in an unintelligible way is simply a way of telling non-Christians to go to Hell. And while a worship service is not structured in order to cater to non-believers, it should anticipate their presence, and not place needless obstacles in front of them.

Fire on the Head

In the famous episode of Elijah and the priests of Baal, it should be noted how dedicated the priests of Baal were. They built an altar, and danced around it for half of the day. When there was no fire from heaven, their dedication became more frenzied, and they began to leap on the altar (1 Kings 18:26). Elijah then began to mock them, and they doubled down — that was the point where they began to cut themselves until the blood gushed out (1 Kings 18:28). They had everything — a religion, dedication, an altar, devout activity, enthusiasm, and their own blood on the altar. They had everything except for a god.

Elijah prepared his altar meticulously, and had a trench dug around it, and had water poured over it three times. Both altars had a bullock, but their altar had human blood, their own, while Elijah’s had an abundance of water.

It is tempting to say that the great miracle was how God answered with fire from the sky (1 Kings 18:38), or a bit later that day with water from the sky (1 Kings 18:45), but this would be to miss the point of the sign. The miracle of the fire from heaven was a sign of God’s ability to do something else, something greater.

“Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the Lord God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again” (1 Kings 18:37).

God answered with fire so that the people would know two things — first that the Lord was God, and secondly, so that they might know that God had indeed turned their hearts back to Him again.

A similar sign was given again, centuries later, when the fires of Pentecost came down upon the heads of the disciples. And centuries later, it still meant the same thing — the Lord is God, and we must be born again.

Surveying the Text: Luke


If Mark is the shortest and punchiest of the gospels, Luke is the most detailed and meticulous. Luke claims to have done very careful research (Luke 1:1-4), and everything about this book bears that claim out.

The Text:

“And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us. And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them” (Acts 16:9–10).

Some Background on Luke:

It may seem odd, in a message summarizing the gospel of Luke, to have the text be from Acts. But when we consider that we are dealing with the collected works of Luke in two volumes, the picture changes somewhat. In this passage, the gospel has not yet come to Europe. Paul was in Troas, and had a dream. In that dream a Macedonian man appeared to him, and summoned him to come over into Macedonia. At that moment, the narrative of Acts suddenly adds the first person plural—we. Luke joins them there, and it is quite possible that he was the Macedonian man in the dream.

Luke was almost certainly a classically educated Gentile. His preface to the gospel of Luke followed the classical style, and his care shows up in many ways and in many details. An educated guess places the composition of Luke at around 60 A.D. and the book of Acts shortly after that. In Col. 4:14, Paul calls Luke the beloved physician, and says that Luke was with him when he wrote Philemon (Phile. v. 24). Paul wrote both those letters in his first imprisonment in Rome, and this agrees with the last two chapters of Acts. At the end of his life, Paul wrote “only Luke is with me” (2 Tim. 4:11). According to an early prologue to his gospel, Luke lived until he was 84, and died in Boeotia in Greece.