Tag Archive | J. R. Ensey

Tongues of Fire

Tongues of Fire
By J.R. Ensey

Were there actually tongues of fire “sitting on the heads” of the 120 on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2)? A casual reading of the account would possibly leave one with such on opinion, but careful consideration will reveal enough evidence to substantiate the view that there were no actual “tongues of fire” on the heads of the one hundred and twenty.

Before we consider the evidence, perhaps I should point out the significance of the question. If it is unimportant, dismiss it. But, if it is relevant to the apostolic message, by all means, give it careful consideration. How important is it?

We preach a positive new birth -message. Strangely enough, a majority of the religious world claims to do the same! Of course, the division comes in defining the new birth. While we contend that one must receive the same experience those of the early church received, others claim .one can be born again in a different manner some, without water baptism, others, without speaking in tongues, etc., etc. But we insist that it isn’t possible to be born again in a manner different from that experience of the Christians in the New Testament accounts. That is, we know that it must be according to the New Testament pattern! And, here is the point.

If there were “tongues of fire” sitting on the heads of each of them on the Day of Pentecost, we must admit we didn’t receive the some experience they did! And, if we have the privilege of receiving the Holy Ghost in a manner different to that of the original church, others can get it differently as well! In fact, if this were true, all would not have to have the same experience that we have received, that of speaking with other tongues.

In other words, if you were to insist that there were actual “tongues of fire,” visible to the eye, sitting on each one’s head, you must admit you didn’t receive the Holy Ghost as they did at the beginning! And, if you can be saved with a different or lesser experience than the early
Christians had, others can also get a different or a lesser experience than you and be saved. Consistency of thought demands no less!

In view of this, I don’t think it rash or reckless to suggest that this is a very significant point to Bible-believing Apostolics. In fact, it appears to me that it would be a rash and reckless act to ignore such a significant point.

What does the Bible say? Does it say “tongues of fire?” No, it doesn’t. Notice what it does say: “And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them” (Acts 2:3).

Close examination reveals two descriptive details relative to their experience:

(1) Their tongue “appeared unto them” to be “cloven,’ that is, divided or split, like a cow’s hoof. Luke, the writer, was describing the scene before his eyes and he was employing figurative speech. He did not say the tongues were “cloven,” but rather that “there appeared unto them….”

(2) Then, he continued the description of how the “tongues” appeared: “like as of fire.” There is a world of difference between the phrase “tongues of fire” and “appeared…like as of fire….” Luke was describing the scene he and the others witnessed as well as what they heard.

You have seen people receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. How would you describe it? What better way would there be to describe such an experience, as to the appearance, than to say, “The tongues appeared to be split and flickered like fire!” As accurately as possible, these figures of speech describe vividly the sight of people receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. We’ve heard it said, “His tongue began to dance about,” which is another way of describing the appearance of one’s tongue as he begins to speak in other tongues. Like the tip of a flame of fire, they appear to “flicker.” As another expressed it, “It appeared as though it [the tongue] were loose on both ends,” or as Luke described it “cloven.” He was simply describing the same sight we have all witnessed in Holy Ghost baptisms!

Of this experience, the King James Version states, “tongues like as of fire.” This descriptive phrase is accurately translated. The Diaglott, which offers a Greek-English transliteration, puts it “tongues like fire.” If we attempt to make this verse say “tongues of fire,” we not only weaken out own position, we are in danger of literalizing that which is plainly a figure of speech. It is much as if we were to conclude that Jesus is a wool-bearing animal because John said, in reference to Him, “Behold the lamb of God.” But, we understand figurative speech and its purpose in the Scriptures.

The onlookers “were confounded…,” not because they saw “tongues of fire,” but “because that every man heard them speak in his own language” (Acts 2:6). At this, ‘they were all amazed!” Does it not seem reasonable that something would have been said about it if there had been “tongues of fire” sitting on the heads of the 120? Luke recorded the reactions of the curious multitude in minute detail, and not one word was said by the onlookers regarding such a sight. Surely actual, visible “tongues of fire” would have elicited at least some comment from them. But, what amazed them was that the Galileans were speaking in their own tongues!

These observant Jews even concluded from the sight that the 120 were drunk “full of new wine!” Peter even defended their actions with, “These are not drunken as ye suppose….” Obviously, one of the most outstanding sights was the mannerisms of the disciples, that is, they appeared to the on-lookers as though they were drunk. If there had been “tongues of fire” sitting on their heads, don’t you believe this interested group would have been paying more attention to such a phenomenal sight than to that of the actions and mannerisms of the group? Or, at least as much? Furthermore, Peter did not refer to “tongues of fire” in his effort to explain the events of the day.

After Cornelius’ household received the Holy Ghost, Peter rehearsed the matter (Acts 11:4) to the rest of the apostles: “As I began to speak,” he explained, “the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning” (Acts 11:15). This verse definitely declares, and we all believe, that Cornelius’ household received exactly the same experience as Peter and the rest of the apostles had on the Day of Pentecost. The way Peter and those who had come with him knew Cornelius’ household had received the Holy Ghost was that they “heard them speak with tongues”
(Acts 10:46). Therefore, Peter could relate to the other apostles, “the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning.” The same sign, the same experience they spoke with tongues! There were no actual “tongues of fire” sitting on the heads of the 120 “at the beginning.”

No thinking person would believe that you could “hatch out” a litter of puppies from a “setting of hen eggs.” The laws of reproduction make this an impossibility. The way the first baby was born to natural parents in the beginning will be the way the last baby born into the world will be birthed. In the some sense, each one who is “born-again” will follow the pattern of the new birth as it happened at Pentecost. If you are “born-again” you had the same experience as those at the beginning; if you didn’t have that experience, you are not truly “born-again.”

The above article, “Tongues of Fire” was written by J.R. Ensey. The article was excerpted from Ensey’s Book The Best of E.L. Holley.

The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.


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Counseling from Scripture

Counseling from Scripture
J. R. Ensey

Many pastors are returning to scriptural counseling-away from the psychological approach that became popular a generation ago. They are discovering that the answers to man’s spiritual and moral problems do not lie in the theories of Freud, Jung, Rogers, or Maslow. Application of these ideas only tend to complicate lives rather than simplify them.

Trying to figure out man’s psyche and how to fix his problems without God is like the pseudo scientists who try to explain the universe without the Creator. Nothing fits. The theories fail, or change with the wind.

The Bible has the answers men need, not the psychological textbooks. His problems are moral and spiritual, and if he can find the courage to simply obey the Scriptures and deny his fleshly lust and pride, peace would replace depression, and victory would supplant defeat.

Depression is an increasingly common complaint today. Virtually everything is blamed on depression from marital problems to murder. Even many homosexuals give depression as a cause for their involvement in that sordid, life. But what is the real problem? Guilt? Condemnation? A simple lack of inner peace? An absence of ethics? Probably, but these may seem to be too simple for the secular psychologists.

God gave us patterns to live by. The farther we remove our lifestyles from that pattern, the more frustrated and unhappy we become. The closer men will align themselves to godly principles, the fewer psychological problems they will have.

“Great peace have they that love thy law and nothing shall offend them” (Psalm 119:165) was David’s discovery.

Simple understanding of our position in Christ can obliterate much of the anxiety in our lives. Most stress in our homes and individual lives comes from the pursuit of things we do not need or should not have. Contentment is the mark of the true Christian. “And with food and -raiment, let us be content,” advised Paul in I Timothy 6:8. “Be content with such things as ye have; for he himself said that he would not leave us or forsake us” (Hebrews 13:5). That principle, injected into our house and lives, could soothe a lot of relationships.

Many emotional and even some physical problems could be resolved by the application of biblical admonitions such as:

* “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have” (Hebrews 13:5).
* “Bless those who persecute you.” (Romans 12:14).
* “Recompense to no man evil for evil . . .” (Romans 12:17).
* “Beloved, avenge not yourselves.” (Romans 12:19).
* “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).
The Bible, not psychological theory, has the answers we need. Let us dig them out and deliver them to our people. The results may astound us!

“Be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5).

Brother Ensey is the President of Texas Bible-College, Houston Texas.

The above article, �Counseling from Scripture� was written by J. R. Ensey. The article was excerpted from Forward magazine. April- June, 1988.

The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.Counseling from Scripture

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Private Interpretation

Private Interpretation
J. R. Ensey

The confidence of the Apostle Peter in the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures is boldly expressed in II Peter 1:19-21.

“We have also a more sure word of prophecy; where unto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hears: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy en of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”

What Peter is saying here is that we have the Word spoken by God and His spokesmen to guide us until Jesus Himself returns. It is a trustworthy Word, a sure word. He added that it was not the word for the prophets themselves but the words that were inspired by the Spirit of God. Then he makes it clear that the prophecy which was spoken by the Hebrew prophet was not subject to the prophet’s own interpretation or explanation. The Greek word translated interpretation (epilusis), suggests a loosing or an untying of the meaning. As Vine explains, the prophets did not put their own constructions upon the God-breathed words they wrote. That principle would become a glaring difference between the true and false prophet. The false prophets tended to loose and untie put their personal interpretation or spin on their pronouncements.

The Catholic Position

Over the centuries Roman Catholics appealed to this passage to rein in any free thinkers who might want to use the Scriptures to project their own ideas or experiences in the effort to break free from the menacing tyranny of the ecclesiastical establishment. For a millennium the only Bible allowed was the Latin Vulgate which the educated alone could read and understand, and the only interpreter of the Scriptures was the pope and priesthood. Anyone who disagreed with the official interpretation was punished severely. This is how they maintained control of many nations through the centuries.

The Catholic Encyclopedia shares their perspective: “Catholics accept the voice of the Church as the supreme authority, and therefore reject outright the principle of religious individualism…The open Bible and the open mind on its interpretation are rather a lure to entice the masses, by flattering their pride and deceiving their ignorance, than a workable principle of faith.” They give three reasons why they traditionally wanted to limit distribution of the Scriptures and maintain tight control over how they were to be interpreted:

1) How many Christians are made by the tons of Testaments distributed by missionaries to the heathen? What religion could even a well-schooled man extract from the Bible if he had nothing but his brain and his book to guide him?

2) The second limitation arises from environment and prejudices. The assumed right of private judgment is not exercised until the mind is already stocked with ideas and notions supplied by family and community, foremost among these being the current conceptions of religious dogmas and duties. In other words, one’s background and influences may keep him away from Catholic “dogmas and duties.”

3) A third limitation put on the exercise of private judgment is the authority of church and State. Secular rulers were guided by political and material considerations in their adherence to particular forms of faith, and they usurped the right of imposing their own choice on their subjects, regardless of private opinions. (This is true but how justified can the Catholics be in complaining about this?)

The Protestant Position

The Protestant Reformation challenged the Catholic position, but did not take the idea of private interpretation as far as some may think. Although the Reformers made personal interpretation a pillar of the movement, they themselves forced their own interpretation on their adherents. They wanted to be free from the pope’s “infallible” pontificates, and that was a good thing, but the Reformers were only a little more tolerant than the Roman Catholics on this matter. As the Catholic Encyclopedia states, “By its proclamation of the right of private interpretation of the Sacred Scriptures [the Protestant movement] swept away with one stroke all living authority and constituted the individual supreme judge in doctrinal matters. Its divisions are therefore but natural, and its heresy trials in disagreement with one of its fundamental principles. The Reformers took full advantage of their emancipation from papal authority, but they showed no inclination to allow their followers the same freedom. Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, and Knox were as intolerant of private judgment when it went against their own conceits as any pope in Rome was ever intolerant of heresy. Confessions of faith, symbols, and catechism were set up everywhere, and were invariably backed by the secular power.”

We have to recognize the truth of that observation. A well-known case in point is that of John Calvin and Michael Servetus. Servetus embraced a Oneness view of the Godhead distinct from the Trinitarian position held by Calvin, reflecting an interpretation of particular verses that varied from the Presbyterian position. It cost him his very life. In other words, “private interpretation” was basically limited to leaders. They wanted their liberties but were reticent in extending them to the people

The truth is that there are very few religious movements or denominations
even today that allow their members, particularly the ministry, unlimited personal interpretation of the Scriptures. The reasoning, of course, is seen in the many sects that are created by individuals who think they have had a special revelation of certain passages. While might does not make right, and quantity does not always equal quality, there is a measure of safety in numbers. It is much more likely that one person can be out of bounds theologically than for a group. Jesus did no choose one disciple but twelve. The threefold cord and bundle of sticks principle applies here. There is comfort and strength in knowing that others are standing with you and share your views. Balance and truth are more likely to be achieved. Much harm and division has resulted from someone getting an idea perhaps from an obscure passage or obsolete translation terminology and, before submitting it to the counsel of brethren, taking off across the country preaching it as law and gospel.

The Apostolic Position

While no one speaks for all Apostolics, it is observable that they are as capable of individualism as anyone when it comes to interpretation of Scripture. By and large, Apostolics give ministers substantial leeway for personal interpretation 1pf scriptural topics other than salvation issues. However, the Word is so plain on the new birth and fundamental holiness issues that lines establishing close fellowship are drawn out of necessity. “Can two walk together except they be agreed” (Amos 3:3)? There has to be agreement on the basics for there to be a foundation on which to build a relationship. A movement where everyone believ6s and teaches whatever they want is equivalent to standing for nothing. And unless they stand for something, they will ultimately fall for anything.

This “private interpretation” issue goes deeper than just how someone speculates about obscure prophetic passages. A church that has no doctrinal requirements or lifestyle standards would be at home squarely in the middle of the modern charismatic community where “membership” requirements consist mostly of stewardship commitments, if any at all. Loyalties are virtually non-existent, and the next preacher who comes to town with a glitzy show, publicized as a Simon-like “great power of God,” there they go. There must be a stated position, a doctrinal distinctive, a “sure word” of truth, and Bible-based leadership to justify loyalty. Loyalty should be first given personally to Jesus, then to the clear, fundamental doctrines of the Bible, and only then to a local church and its pastor. Loyal demands beyond that are not easy to find in the Bible. Any further commitment is should be entirely based on the worthiness of the entity and its steadfastness in truth. One has no obligation beyond love to a church or pastor that don’t teach apostolic doctrine and promote the apostolic lifestyle.

Private judgment can ripen into free thinking, compromise and heresy. This is why Paul pled with the first century church to be steadfast (I Corinthians 15:58) to teach the same things (I Corinthians 1:10; Philippians 3:16), and hold fast to sound words (II Timothy 1:13). The reason was expressed in the next verse: ‘there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up” (II Peter 2:1-3 NIV). Such teachers may consider ministers or laymen who are without attachment or accountability as easy prey. Binding together in some fashion with those of like precious faith, who are in agreement on the fundamentals of the faith, we are stronger. We owe each other love, faithfulness, and dedication to truth.

The motto of one secular group is: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” That has a nice ring; if…there is agreement on how to categorize essentials and non-essentials. In applying that slogan to “private interpretation” of Scripture, let enough liberty prevail that we can breathe intellectually, but enough unity that the false teachers Paul and Peter warned about will be quickly identified and dealt with before they can divide us.

This article Private Interpretation written by J. R. Ensey was excerpted from Advance Ministries  The Apostolic Christian’s Library Builder and Inspiration Journal; Spring 200

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