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Your Questions, Our Thoughts

Why are parables concentrated in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, but we do not find any in John?

There are several parables in the Gospel of John, though they are not recognizable by the introductory words one finds in the three Synoptic Gospels, such as, “He taught them many things by parable” (Matt. 18:23) or “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like . . .” (Mark 4:2). Instead, the parables in the Gospel of John are identified by their distinctive style of making a comparable common analogy or proverbial saying within one of Jesus’ discourses so as to give clarification or reinforcement of what Jesus is teaching.

Throughout church history, many have recognized John 10:1–16 and 15:1–7 as extended parables about the Good Shepherd and the True Vine. Other examples may be found in John 4:35–37; 9:4; 12:24; and 16:21. All of the Gospel writers convey Jesus’ teaching through the use of parables, though they choose to emphasize different stories and techniques. By studying all four Gospels, we have a fuller understanding of our Master Teacher.

What is the importance of speaking in tongues? I have been told that I need to pray for the ability to speak in order to fully know God. Is this true?

In the history of the church, three views have developed about the spiritual gift of speaking in tongues. First, that this gift is an ecstatic prayer language, unintelligible to the speaker, in order to speak to God at a higher and deeper level. Second, the gift is an ecstatic prayer language that must be interpreted by another who has the spiritual gift of the interpretation of speaking in tongues, in order to speak a word from the Lord to a congregation. Third, the gift refers to the supernatural ability to speak a human language unknown to the speaker in order to make the words of God known to a human speaker of that language.

The book of Acts describes three incidents when someone was speaking in tongues (Acts 2:1–4; 10:44–47; 19:1–7). In each, the gift occurred when eyewitnesses of the gospel reached a new region that previously had not heard the gospel. The Holy Spirit used the gift of speaking in tongues to verify that this gospel message about the death and resurrection of Jesus was true. Those who heard speaking in tongues were people who had not heard the message of the gospel previously and had no witness or documents (such as the New Testament, which we have today) to verify the truthfulness of the gospel story. The use of the gift resulted in the Spirit falling upon believers from the resurrected Lord in heaven.

Nowhere in Acts or 1 Corinthians is there any teaching that the gift of speaking in tongues gives a believer deeper knowledge of God. That teaching is a later development, perhaps to justify the experiences of those who believe tongues to be an ecstatic prayer language. A deeper knowledge of God comes by grace as one humbles oneself under the truth of the Word of God with obedience, as the Spirit of God reveals more of who God is and what He does.

Why are the words of Paul considered Scripture, and does he contradict the words of Jesus?

The 13 epistles written by the apostle Paul most certainly are Scripture, breathed out from God through the human author without error. The apostle Peter recognized Paul's writing at Scripture within one of his own letters: "Our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. . . . His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction" (2 Peter 3:15–16). Peter's description of Paul's letters as "the other Scriptures" classifies Paul's writings with the Old Testament—the "other Scriptures" that would have been available to a first-century followers of God (see 2 Tim. 3:16).

At least four times in Paul's writings he indicates that he is writing what he has received from Jesus (emphasis added): "To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband" (1 Cor. 7:10); "For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you" (1 Cor. 11:23); "For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures" (1 Cor. 15:3); and "I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ" (Gal. 1:11–12).

Twice in Scripture we have an account of Paul quoting Jesus' words. "The Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive'" (Acts 20:35). In 1 Timothy 5:18, Paul quotes the words of Jesus found in Luke 10:7: "The worker deserves his wages." It seems then that Paul carefully and faithfully passed on Jesus' words in his writings—writings that come from the very mouth of God.

BY Eric C. Redmond

Eric C. Redmond serves as an assistant professor of Bible at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and as associate pastor of adult ministries at Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park, Ill. He is married to Pam and they have five children. He is the author of Where Are All the Brothers? Straight Answers to Mens’ Questions about the Church (Crossway), a commentary on Jonah in the Christ-Centered Exposition Series (B&H Publishers), and a study guide on Ephesians in the Knowing the Bible series (Crossway).

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