What saith the word?
In the book of 1st John, John discusses that God is light, and that we should follow His commands (I John 1:1-2:6), that we should be aware of false teachers (I John 2:15-29), and he contrasted between the righteous and the wicked (I John 3:1-16). In I John 3:19-24, John wants the Christians to understand that they can have assurance in their faith and their remaining in God, and if they love in deed and truth, they can have that assurance (I John 3:19). John indicates that if our heart does not condemn us, we can have confidence before God (I John 3:21). However, even if we ignore our conscience and sin, or can sin without offending the conscience, God is greater than the feelings in our heart, and He will not miss the deeds that we have done (John 12:48)! Therefore, the goal is to have a heart that does not condemn us, which is a conscience properly trained according to God's will, and living according to His will.
This is the basis of our confidence before God: not that we can earn his favor, but that we stand before Him in “the faith” (Eph 2:8-9) in His Son while we are striving to do His will. John already assumes this regarding the Christians to whom he is writing, and believes they are actively following God's commandments and are seeking to please Him. Therefore, because they are seeking God’s will, whatever they ask, they receive from Him (I John 3:22). John also informs us regarding that commandment: to believe in Jesus His Son and to love one another (I John 3:23). John makes clear that those who keep God's commandments abide in God, and God in him, and that we can have assurance of God's presence in us through the Spirit whom He has given us (I John 3:24; cf. I John 2:2-6, 27). Unfortunately, many may read that "whatever we ask from Him we receive" and then believe that they can ask God for things outside of His will and will then receive it. However, By saying that "whatever we ask we receive," John is indicates that all the things we seek which provide spiritual benefit and are consistent with God's purposes will be given (cf. Matthew 7:7, James 1:5-8). John's reassurance to the Christians is based in God's power and sovereignty, but also in one’s obedience to God. There is no reason for the Christian today to be left in doubt: let us keep God's commandments and abide in Him (1 John 5:3)!
Many people believe that these two items are as opposite as black and white. This is based on a misunderstanding of how we receive God’s mercy and is in no way contradictory to Ephesians 2:8-9 (KJV) 8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. The answer is seen is Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
A majority of people today believe in “faith only” and reject the necessity of “doing”. James rhetorically asks James 2:14 (KJV) What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? James knew this did not make sense. The answer is clearly NO to the question “Can faith (only) save him? He then goes on to say why a faith lacking obedient works cannot save. James 2:17 (KJV) Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. It is impossible to separate God’s commands from our faith. The obedience to these commands is the exhibition of this faith as an active and living relationship with the Father. James clearly shows that the current thought process of “faith” minus “faith in action (works)” is nothing more than a dead faith. Many make the claim that James contradicts the book of Romans, but if it does it also rejects the book of Hebrews. Hebrews 11:6 (KJV) But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. James is emphasizing both faith and obedience to God is necessary. If not, James would also contradict 1 John 1:6 (KJV) If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: Faith only believers claim baptism is a work, but it is a command which has been given to us by Christ himself (Mark 16:16). To separate this act from “faith” based on the false doctrine of “faith only” means “we lie, and do not the truth”. There are many commands given in the New Testament which make us whole in our faith. Subtract any of these commands (works of obedience) and our faith is incomplete. James clearly states this in James 2:22 (KJV) Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? Perfect in the Greek (τελειόω) means “complete”. You can’t be a complete Christian when you separate faith and works. James further explains why. James 2:24 (KJV) Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Many today claim to have faith or a “personal relationship” with God, but their faith does not demonstrate this claim. According to “faith only” believers, Paul must also be contradictory in His writing to Titus, but should be sufficient to show this doctrine false. Titus 1:16 (KJV) They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate. James shows our faith IS our doing!
Is there such thing as an “unknown” prayer language when one talks about speaking in tongues? The King James Version added the word "unknown" several times in 1 Corinthians chapter 14, in an attempt to clarify what was being stated. These additions are marked by the word "unknown" being italicized. The word “unknown” is not in the original Greek, but the translators of the King James Version felt that it would clarify what Paul was saying. Unfortunately, there are groups today which have decided that "unknown" must mean unknown to anyone on earth and therefore have declared that Paul was talking about speaking in the tongue of angels. This far from the truth and is easily seen in the text.
The word "tongue" simply refers to a language. We still use it in this sense today, when we refer to a person's “mother tongue”. The proper definition is clearly seen in Acts 2:6 where the first occurrence of “tongue-speaking” is found. Acts 2:6 KJV “Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language." These visitors in Jerusalem were from at least fifteen regions of the world, but when the apostles spoke each listener heard his own language! This was not an “angelic language”. Paul teaches later in I Corinthians 14 that prophesy is better than speaking in other languages because there are times when the language spoken is unknown to the audience. When this happens, God understands, but no one else benefits (I Corinthians 14:1-5). Yet, in contrast, prophesy was always beneficial. Paul also argues that speaking in tongues is without benefit if it doesn't have a purpose, such as to teach another. Speaking in another language for that reason alone has no purpose.
Prayer done in an unknown tongue might benefit the spirit of the one praying, but it doesn't help the praying person if he doesn't understand the language. Notice especially verse 15. 1 Cor. 14:13-15 KJV “Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret. For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also”. This is the opposite of what is being advocated by many churches today which claim miraculously speaking in tongues is still occurring today. Besides, prayer in worship should also benefit the listener. Paul tells the Corinthians to speak so that those listening will understand and gain knowledge from hearing (I Corinthians 14:16-19).
Finally, Paul points out that speaking in tongues was given to reach unbelievers (I Cor. 14:22). Using a language that the unbeliever doesn't understand defeats the purpose for which the gift was given in the first century. Instead of being impressed, the unbeliever will leave thinking everyone is in the congregation is insane (I Cor. 14:23)! Isn't this what happens in most services today where people claim to speak in tongues? People babble, but no one is edified, including the babbler! The speaker might feel uplifted, but he hasn't learned nor taught a thing. I would much rather with sincerity and understanding, than to force myself to speak in an “unknown” and “pretend” language. Ask yourself logically, which will lead people to the knowledge of Christ today? Paul teaches that the miraculous gifts (which include speaking in tongues) will cease “when that which is perfect is come” (1 Cor. 13:10). Many teach that “perfect” thing is Christ and therefore “tongues” will continue until the judgment. However, the word “perfect” means complete. This “complete” thing is mentioned in James 1:25 and is the “perfect law of liberty” which is our completed New Testament. Therefore, not only is “speaking in tongues” not an angelic language, this ability to miraculously speak another language ceased when the Scriptures were completed.