Check out the rest of the series at Revival Videos
Many Christians believe that speaking in tongues is the fulfilment of the Latter Rain promised in Joel 2:28-29 and that it is the final manifestation of the Holy Spirit before the Second Coming of Christ. It is also commonly taught that you have not received the Holy Spirit and are not saved unless you have demonstrated the gift of speaking in tongues and tongues seems to be the only sought after gift in the tongue speaking Church today.
So what is the real truth about tongue speaking? (or version thereof) Can we go by experience and feelings or do we go by the Word of God? The only way to find the truth to these questions of course has to be the Bible and the Bible alone. There is no other way. Everything we need to know for our Christian walk can be found in the Word of God and if not clearly taught in God’s Word, then we should not follow it less we be deceived. The Bible warns us of this fact many times. In this document we will cover all aspects of speaking in tongues (glossolalia) from the Bible alone. We will not be going by experiences, feelings or so called “physical evidence.” We cannot afford to adopt an interpretation which demands a change in God’s Word. It is our interpretation that should change if necessary to fit the Bible – not the Bible changed to fit our interpretation. Since the enemy can and does counterfeit miracles of God we must follow the scriptures only.
(Extract from Revival Observer, September '97)
Many Revival Centre people are surprised to learn that virtually no one else teaches that 'you must speak in tongues to be saved'. Another major problem is that the teaching has no historical precedent. No one taught it before Lloyd Longfield, and the United Pentecostal Church (compare Jude 3).
What did the early Christians teach about salvation? Go through these quotes, and see what was taught throughout the ages:
A.D. 55 - PAUL AT EPHESUS: "you are saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you - unless you have come to believe in vain. For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day" (1Corinthains 15:1-4)
A.D. 56 - PAUL AT CORINTH: "if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10:9)
A.D. 98 - JOHN AT EPHESUS: "God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of od, and they abide in God." (1John 4:15)
A.D. 98 - JOHN AT EPHESUS: "Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?" (1John 5:5)
A.D. 100 - CLEMENT OF ROME: "we, too, being called by his will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men; to whom be glory for ever and ever" (First Epistle to the Corinthians, XXXII, 15)
* Note - Clement doesn't even mention tongues in any of his letters
A.D. c.120 - POLYCARP OF SMYRNA: "'we shall also reign together with Him, 'provided only we believe.'" (Epistle to the Philippians, V, 10-11)
* Polycarp doesn't even mention tongues in any of his letters
EARLY 2ND C. - IGNATIUS OF ANTIOCH: "For, since you are subject to your overseer as to Jesus Christ, you appear to me to live not after the manner of men, but according to Jesus Christ, who died for us, in order, by believing in his death, you may escape from death." (Epistle to the Trallians, II, 1)
* Ignatius doesn't even mention tongues in any of his epistles
BEFORE 165AD - JUSTIN MARTYR OF SAMARIA: "He was crucified, that the rest of the prophecy might be fulfilled. For this 'washing his robe in the blood of the grape' was predictive of the passion he was to endure, cleansing by his blood those who believe on him." (First Apology, XXXII, 2) "And it is written, that on the day of the Passover you seized him, and that also during the Passover you crucified him. And as the blood of the Passover saved those who were in Egypt, so also the blood of Christ will deliver from death those who have believed. Would God, then, have been deceived if this sign had not been above the doors? I do not say that; but I affirm that he announced beforehand the future salvation for the human race through the blood of Christ." (Second Apology, CXI)
* Justin Martyr doesn't even mention tongues in any of his letters
LATE 2ND C. - IRENAEUS OF SMYRNA: "'And daily,' it is said, 'in the temple, and from house to house, they ceased not to teach and preach Christ Jesus,' the Son of God. For this was the knowledge of salvation, which renders those who acknowledge his Son's advent perfect towards God." (Against Heresies III, XII:12ff)
* Irenaeus does make one mention of tongues in his day. He briefly mentions Christians who by "the Spirit speak all kinds of languages, and bring to light for the general benefit the hidden things of men, and declare the mysteries of God" (Against Heresies V,VI)
You will have noted how early Christians were associating salvation with Jesus, not tongues.
Discussion of the gifts, especially of tongues, by the earliest writers is quite sparse. John MacArthur even writes in Charismatic Chaos, "In the Post Apostolic age there is no mention of tongues". Because of this lack of comment, some writers like John MacArthur (and B. Warfield in the past) have suggested that all miraculous gifts ceased in the first century.
I believe they go too far. In Charismatic Gifts in the Early Church, Ronald Kydd concludes:
"Throughout the first and second centuries, the gifts remained ... we have drawn from virtually every kind of person in the Church. We have heard from bishops and heretics, philospohers and poets, storytellers and theologians. Generally speaking, and of course there must have been exceptions at specific times and places, the Church prior to A.D. 200 was charismatic".
However, even a Pentecostal must agree - there is no post biblical discussion of tongues until Irenaeus, a gap of about a century from 1 Corinthians, and 600 pages of Christian writing afterwards.
What is evident is that the early church COULD NOT have been PRE-OCCUPIED with tongues. The Anchor Bible Dictionary explains, "there is no hint of the practice of glossolalia [tongues] in any [post-Biblical] Christian writing before the middle of the 2d century. Even for the earliest period of Christianity, therefore, glossolalia appears to be at best a sporadic and ambiguous occurence ... therefore [it is] inadequately supported by the data [that] tongues was a normal and expected accompaniment of the Spirit (and therefore, by implication, an essential component of authentic Christianity)"(Vol.6, p.598).
So I believe that tongues probably had a place in the early Church (as Kydd says), but they obviously could not have been of 'first importance', or the pre-occupation. That position was given to Christ alone (1Cor.15:1-4). Remember that in the earliest Church writings, we have only one mention of tongues in 600 pages. How different to a standard Revival Centre 'salvation' talk or pamphlet - tongues, tongues, tongues, tongues!
Speaking in tongues is much older than Paul.
It comes from the Pythoness of the Oracle at Delphi. How it worked was you made a large donation to the Temple of Apollo and you got the ask the Pythoness a single question. She would the pray to the God Apollo at a fissure at the altar. Recently tested it was found that a mildly toxic gas was, and still is, emitted from this crack in the Earth. The Oracle is over the junction of two earthquake faults. She, the Pythoness, would start dancing around and babbling incoherently. A Priest of the temple would "translate" what the Pythoness had said. She was speaking the speech of the gods and was getting all her information from Apollo.
The Oracle at Delphi started in the 400s BC, when Greece was at its strongest. It continued into the Roman era as if it was a parody of its former self, so the members of the churches of Greece and Asia Minor would have been very familiar with how Delphi worked. It was a shrine of the Greek god Apollo. In response to someone's questions, a priestess would go into a frenzy and start babbling. An attendant priest would then 'translate' the babble into some glittering generalities that could in some way be understood as an answer. Some of the best-known features of Greek philosophy streamed out from the Oracle's early years (for instance, it bred the saying "Know Yourself"); the great Greek philosophers were very good at finding jewels in waste water. The cult of Dionysis used rhythmic music, whirling dances, alcohol and/or herbal drugs, and magic spells to send peoples' souls out of their body (Greek ek stasis ) and into the presence of whatever deity or sub-deity was involved; this too sometimes caused strange sounds.
African animists, too, have long had ecstatic speech in their religions. But, just as glossolalia among Jews marked one as a prophet, glossolalia caused most African animists to foist onto the speaker the role of religious leader or priest, a heavy spiritual and cultural responsibility to lay upon an unprepared person. Wherever they have happened in the past, glossolalia and other extraordinary 'spiritual' happenings have not been, and have not really been allowed to be, a thing 'of the people', which could be a part of the otherwise-normal life of otherwise-ordinary people.
Deep in the gnostic book-hoard at Nag Hammadi, archaeologists discovered what may be the earliest, and perhaps one of the strangest, written instances of glossolalia. (Gnosticism arose at the same time as Christianity, and Gnostics were skilled at melding Christian devotions and spirituality to the un-Christian Gnostic framework -- to use a modern term, they tried to 'co-opt' Christianity.) While modern theologians give the unusual contents at Nag Hammadi much more attention than they deserve, a prayer introduction in *The Gospel Of the Egyptians* is a true attention-grabber. It reads roughly (very roughly) like this :
Ié ieus éó ou éó óua! O Jesus, bond of Yah's righteousness, O Living Water, O Child of Child, O glorious Name! Really truly, O Eon that is, iiii éééé eeee oo uuuu óóóó aaaaa, really truly éi aaaa óó óó! O One That Is, Seer Of the Ages! Really truly, aee ééé iiii uuuuuu óóóóóóóó, You who are eternally eternal, really truly iéa aió, in the heart, You who Are, You are what You are, ei o ei eios ei!
Even the translatable words are very iffy and full of vowels and mixed languages. Like modern glossolalia, it's got a lot of almost-words, divine titles, and 'really truly'. It's almost like a parody, it's so garbled, but it was serious in its intent. The ecstatic speech did not make the book's bizarre beliefs the slightest bit more true.
Liberated from the Revival Centres in 1985, they pretty much picked up the ball when Lloydy dropped it while he went on his manical genocidal cleansing spree to purge HIS church of its sinful human dross so that he could deliver it clean and perfect as a bride to a very fussy groom (not his actual words fyi). Godfrey, Khulmann and the gang dropped the horse, added a couple more trumpets and decided to be fellowships rather than centres. The meeting format didn't skip a beat and the drinking of various substances was and is still forbidden.
The majority of RFers can still sleep in on a Sunday morning but have to give up most of the P.M. (Prime Mowing time). Say goodbye to the kids on Sunday morning, 'cause you won't get to see them much again until you're safely back at home at 6.30 or so.
They continue to ex-communicate members who infringe on sexual sins and shun ex-members who don't wish to rejoin the ranks. They respect the idea that they're not the only 'true' church and believe that all the tongue-speakers of the earth are truly united in the one super dooper unit. They believe there are only three classes of people on this planet: Christians, worldlies... and Catholics. They hold disdain though for tongue-speaking Christians who don't preach the absolute necessity for tongues.
Their assemblies are still under the thumb of a tight hierarchal system that ensures all the seperate assemblies play by the franchise rules and that every burger has pickles on it and a staff member who will ask, "Would you like tongues with that?" No women are allowed to serve the burgers and the head guys have to wear ties and have a picture of the queen behind their desks.
One's christianality is still determined by an emphasis on physical evidence (ie. speaking in an ecstatic language - tongues) to 'confirm' salvation rather than the concept of walking by faith and not by sight (2 Cor 5:7). You must be completely submerged in water to fulfill the complete ritual. If you leave a hand out of the water during the dunking or get hit by a bus on the way to the river... eternal life hangs in the balance.
What do these churches do to help their communities around them..? the weak, the widow, the fatherless? Like every other Tongue-fixated church, they are only interested in dragging converts back to their halls where everything will come out in the wash. Cancer will go away, homosexuality won't happen, and life will be rosey and sweet forever and ever amen. In short... they do NOTHING for their fellow man.
- British Israel - Still in the creed of beliefs (Link to non-racist claim)
- Prophesy - Soon return of Jesus (Historicist view of Revelation - not rapturists). Soon did come at about 1997 for many... but soon is now interpreted as some time later, but still very soon.
- Punishment for sexual sins - Out of fellowship for life.
- Founder - Lloyd Longfield (1948 - Revival title given in 1958). Declared insane by most of his own members in 1995.
- Current senior pastor - Simon Longfield.
- Female leadership? - No. Women are very rarely even allowed to pray publicly, ie. opening a meeting in prayer. They can use the voice gifts... most are pretty happy to have the pressure off them.
- Alcohol? - Not on your Nelly! Do not drink, do not pass go, do not even collect a cold beer after a hot working bee.
Favourite quote from their website -
- "there will be no outrageous or wild behaviour and no 'religious theatrics' on the other hand, we don't think you will be bored"
- "The word 'pastor' means shepherd. Shepherds in Bible days were not the 'drovers' we see in larger scale farming techniques of today. The shepherd in those days lived in close relation with his flock, putting them first"
Revival Centre International
This group originated in Australia, and spread abroad.
Like all aberrant bible-based groups they follow the usual practice of only using those scriptures which support their beliefs; wresting verses out of context and ignoring, or explaining away any which are contrary.
A major difference between RCI and other pentecostal churches is in the doctrine which revolves around speaking in tongues. According to them, UNLESS YOU SPEAK IN TONGUES YOU DO NOT HAVE SALVATION. To quote from their pamphlet 'Salvation and the Holy Spirit' . . .
" . . . it is ONLY when the earnest seeker speaks in tongues that we can say with scriptural that he has received the Holy Spirit."" The baptism with the Holy Spirit is NOT AN 'OPTIONAL EXTRA' in the Word of God. Rather it is God's seal or pledge that we are saved (Eph 1:13-14) . . . The Bible therefore offers no assurance for those who choose to remain outside this freely offered experience . . . We are also warned that 'no other gospel' is to be preached (Gal 1:8). To preach less than the Holy Spirit Baptism for salvation is a disaster."
" There is no salvation outside the receiving of the Holy Spirit. Anything less is not God's plan and IS NOT SALVATION." (emphasis are ours)
As regards 'Baptism in the Holy Spirit' or 'being filled with the Holy Spirit' one only needs to look at Acts 9 to see that Paul the apostle was himself 'FILLED with the Holy Spirit' (vs17) AFTER he had acknowledged Jesus Christ as Lord (vs6); AFTER he had received a further vision from the Holy Spirit concerning Ananias (vs12) and AFTER he was made a 'chosen vessel' unto the Lord (see Acts 9:4-17). This and other passages from Scripture indicate that AFTER being 'born-again' by the Spirit of God, a Christian is filled with the Holy Spirit. But there is no passage that indicates that one must speak in tongues to show that they are saved.
It is also worthwhile to point out that spiritual gifts are to be DESIRED or SOUGHT AFTER (1 Cor 12:28 and 14:11) by the BELIEVER only!
The Christian is warned not to look to supernatural manifestations such as prophecy, casting out demons, wonderful works (healing etc) as the SOLE CRITERIA for proof that a person is a Christian (Matt 7:17-23 shows there will be those who do these things in the Lord's name but the Lord is going to cast them away because they are not His).
The reasons for this warning become clearer when we look at such passages as 2 Thess 2:7-12; 1 Tim 4:1; and Rev 16:14, 19:20. Many will be deceived by miracles and the 'supernatural' because they will be looking at THESE as the foundation for their faith, NOT at the Lord Himself. This emphasis on a physical evidence to 'confirm' salvation is contrary to the injunction to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor 5:7).
In verse 21 of Acts 2, Peter told his listeners how to be saved. In verse37 they cried out "What must we do?". Peter then told them to REPENT and be baptised for (because of) the remission of their sins. Then, Peter told them, they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
THEIR BASIC BELIEFS ARE
1. Salvation is only for those who speak in tongues and this is the only way you can know the assurance of salvation.
2. They are the only true church.
3. The 'lost ten tribes' are Britain and the USA (British Israelism).
4. The major part of the book of Revelation has been fulfilled.
THEY ALSO TEACH THAT "goodness in natural terms is a fantasy, a delusion, set before us with its seeming opposite, evil, by the devil. THE TWO ARE INTERCHANGABLE depending on where we view them from . . ."
THAT "even family ties were to be callously disregarded when they impinged on a follower's walk".
THAT there is no forgiveness for the sin of adultery or fornication and that those who sin in this way are to be permanently removed from fellowship.
This organisation is potentially dangerous. It has a particular appeal to those who seek the reassurance of a 'sign' or a supernatural experience before they believe they have salvation.
Former members describe a system of control and manipulation and experience the same post-cult symptoms as those who come from other well known cults such as Scientology, Jehovah's Witnesses and Moonies. All indications are that this is a destructive Bible Based cult.
The convoluted gospel of speaking in tongues as the primary and necessary indicator for Christian salvation, has been passing on from various churches for half a century now. These followers believe that anyone who calls themselves Christians, but cannot perform the act, is fooling themselves and whoever they talk to. Non-speaking Christians aren't even second-class citizens to them, in fact, they're not even Christians at all, according to their bible interpretation. They think very little of the 'fake' Christians and even less of the 'worldlies' whom they endeavor to save with their select gospel.
Many people who become disillusioned with Revival churches are sometimes forced out for various reasons, eg. legalism or overly controlling pastors. Many of these ex-members find themselves a bit lost and somewhat confused without a group of tongue-fixated church members around them, so they strive to find a church that is similar. Some start up their own. so strong is the elitism and exclusivity of this belief's mindset.
They can often look harmless in comparison to Revival. They implement a lot more modern praise and worship music (but will refrain from any emotional hand raising etc). They sometimes don't have a trumpet in their logo. They claim to have dropped the legalism and rules and etc. Of course, they are too blind to see how legal and divisive the actual tongues necessity gospel is in itself. Usually their meetings are carbon copies of Revival complete with two testimonies, 2 or 3 gift ceremonies, and a catholic based communion ritual.
The argument is convincing and the scriptures dovetail quite nicely when tweaked accordingly. Initiation and approval is given via a random rambling drawl and it is exchanged at every meeting, much like a secret handshake. However, this thread is not a debate on tongues but rather an expose on the churches (no matter how big or small) who are similar to Revival or who have broken off from them without discarding the tongues fixation. Most of these churches don't communicate with each other but do nod politely in their direction when it's acknowledged that, 'at least they have tongues'.
All tongue-fixated church have similarities. The foundation of this salvation criteria leads to many commonalities and
Major groups listed so far:
- The RCI - Revival Centres International
- The GRC - Geelong Revival Centres
- The CAI - Christian assemblies International
- The RF - Revival Fellowships
- The UP - United Pentecostals
The use of the gifts in a Revival meeting
Is it a biblical practice?
Is the decently and in order use of the gifts of the spirit as used by the Revival churches a correct interpretation of how things were intended to be? What does the bible mean by two at the most three*? It sounds like more of a recommendation than a commandment to me. Does it anger God if the gift is used only once or four times? If this is the Holy Spirit speaking, then who is Paul or anyone else to place a controlled restriction on it?
*Interestingly, in the other instances of the use of the number phrase 'two or three' (Matt 18:20 two or three are gathered - John 2:6 two or three firkins) the addition of the second number calls attention to the fact that the first number is not meant to be an exact sum.
It goes like this: One stands up and speaks in an unknown tongue, another stands up and explains what the other just said. They conclude God had something to say, and communicated it this way. Logic asks then, "Why did God have to speak gibberish, then raise someone up to speak intelligently, when all the while He is supposed to be using the pastor to speak to the congregation in the first place?"
Tongues as a prayer language:
We were lead to believe that God gives the gift of tongues so we can pray more effectively but where does it say He has to pray through us in an unknown tongue?
Romans 8:26 reads, "Likewise the Spirit also helps with our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." Observe closely here, "cannot be uttered" Whether in English, or some supposed mysterious language given by God, it says plainly - cannot be uttered.
Tongues to enable witnessing (yes, already covered well in another thread)
Jesus made it clear in Acts 1:8 that the Holy Spirit would enable followers to be witnesses for Him. We read immediately in the second chapter that this is what happened. People were gathered from different regions of the Mediterranean world and spoke many different languages. Yet afterwards, they heard them speak in their own native language! Galileans speaking miraculously as Parathions, Medes, Elamites, Mesopotamian, Cretes, Arabians, Egyptians, ... the wonderful works of God. (Acts 2:8-11) The original intent of the language gift was to maximize the efficiency of transmitting the Gospel message.
Context means everything when defining a concept, and the context of the phenomena of 'unknown tongues' here is plainly to communicate the Gospel in a simple, communicative, understandable language to the listeners that surrounded them. Acts 2:6 tells us that they heard them speak in their own language. They didn't hear words they couldn't understand, but benefited by hearing the gospel in their own dialect.
Tongues of angels and men
I've mention recently that the term angels can simply refer to anyone sending a message as the word 'angel' means messenger, but let's unpack it a bit further.
"Though I speak with the tongues of men or angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal."
Should we read a prayer language into this? Is this the subject Paul was emphasizing? No, he's saying how important is is to be lead by love no matter how blessed with gifts one is. Without love it's meaningless. He is exaggerating to prove a point. Isn't that obvious? He does it again in Galatians 1:8, "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed." In other words he's saying: "Sheesh, I don't care if an angel drops down from heaven, don't listen to them if it isn't what I've told you". It's a hypothetical exaggeration here, to make it obvious to the reader, hardly a place to base a doctrine for a prayer language! Some then quote 1 Cor 14 but the entire emphasis of that chapter is in the gift of prophecy where all can be edified by understanding clearly what the speaker or the person praying publicly is saying!
Thought... Why does a prophesy sound exactly like an interpretation?
In verse one he asks us to desire the gifts but most importantly - prophesy. The Greek meaning of prophesy is to both foretell and forthtell, or to preach understandably. The word is propheuo and means to declare truth whether through prediction or not. In verse 5 Paul wishes that they all spoke with tongues. Why? They would be more useful if they all had the ability to cross language barriers. But he prefers that they prophesy unless there is an interpreter. Now this leads to the next question...
It's all right to speak in tongues if there is an interpretation!
First of all, that's not the emphasis here, secondly, what kind of language was being interpreted?
Let's use our imagination here for a sec. Suppose you've been given a 'language' gift from the Lord and you use it in the meeting. Only one problem, no one understands what you just prayed including you! (verse 14) My spirit (i.e. my inward sincerity) was there, but who knows what I said! Over and over again Paul places the emphasis on communicating that all may understand in this chapter. He even uses musical instruments as an analogy.
In verses 27 and 28 Paul states that speaking in tongues is permissible if we have two, and at the most three speak in this fashion. Then, and only then, if one interprets. Let's use our imagination again, eh? The assembly has gathered, and the pastor moves to the pulpit and lo and behold, he's carrying the original Hebrew text! Someone says afterward: "Wow! We heard a message from Hebrew! He sure is gifted having the ability to read the original Hebrew! We sure are blessed, I enjoyed hearing the Hebrew read today in our meeting." The other would respond: "Yeah, but I wonder what he said?" Sound far-fetched? The Roman Catholics have read sermons in Latin for years! Paul is telling them, if you do use a different language, explain it that all understand.
Tongues was explained at pentecost as a gift given to clearly communicate the Gospel in a language that all could understand. It's the same Greek word "glossa" throughout the New Testament and yes, even in 1 Corinthians where Paul found the most problems. Being the same Greek word, why should anyone change the meaning to the way it is being practiced by Revival and their ilk?
- Where do they get off implying that all who don't practice tongues are on their way to hell?
- Where do they get the revelation to say that one church is better than the other because one practices tongues and the other doesn't?
Not from the bible.
and some more...
A little bit of logic unravels the whole 'gifts' ritual very quickly. ie. The two or three tongue messages TO the Lord are interpreted as messages FROM the Lord. The interpretations are completely similar to the two or three prophesies that come afterward... and are not prophetic at all.
Many Revivalists claim the miracle of the gifts because the one they were about to blurt out had a similar message to the one that got in first. This isn't surprising considering everyone in the community has been listening to the same talks, and talking in the same circles... not to mention the mathematical coincidence effect that there are only so many topics commonly used and that every now and again someone is going to beat you to the punch with a similar message.
THERE IS A GENIUNE EXPERIENCE OF MIRACULUOSLY SPEAKING IN ANOTHER LANGUAGE WHEN FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT DESCRIBED IN THE BIBLE, AVAILABLE FOR EVERYBODY.
BUT THERE IS THE REAL THING.
As I mentioned earlier, I will assume that there is a real thing and will not attempt to discredit your experience (at least in these threads...) so please don't feel the need to justify your experience. I accept that. There is no doubt that the bible teaches there is such a thing as speaking in tongues and as we are utilising the Bible in these threads, I have no desire or reason to attempt to contradict the Bible here. Rather I would like to try to discern what the Bible has to say about the role of speaking in tongues in salvation.
WE CANT FIND THE ANSWER IN THE GOSPELS OF MATTHEW, MARK, LUKE AND JOHN BECAUSE THEY DESCRIBE EVENTS BEFORE THE HOLY SPIRIT WAS GIVEN. THE HOLY SPIRIT WAS NOT TO BE GIVEN TILL AFTER JESUS HAS DIED, ROSE AGAIN, ASCENDED AND BE GLORIFIED. SO, WE CANT READ ABOUT PEOPLE RECEIVING THE SPIRIT IN THE GOSPELS, CAUSE NO ONE DID. IT WAS NOT POSSIBLE.
I don't agree with that statement at all. However, as I have said, let's stick with Acts for now and get into that one later on if we need to.
MANY THEOLOGIANS OBJECT TO THIS BY SAYING THAT WE CANT USE ACTS FOR CONSTRUCTING DOCTRINE BECAUSE IT IS MERELY "NARRATIVE". THEY SAY IT JUST A HISTOICAL RECORD TELLING US WHAT DID HAPPEN NOT WHAT SHOULD HAPPEN, SO FOR DEFINING DOCTRINE WE SHOULD ONLY USE SCRIPTURE THAT IS EXPLICITLY "TEACHING" AND NOT NARRATIVE.
BUT THIS OBJECTION IS TOTALLY WRONG BECAUSE IT SAYS IN 1st TIMOTHY 3:16 THAT: "ALL SCRIPTURE IS USEFUL FOR...... DOCTRINE....".SINCE ACTS IS SCRIPTURE WE CAN THEREFORE USE IT TO DEFINE DOCTRINE, SO, THERE IS NOTHING WRONG OR UNSCRIPTURAL WITH CONSTRUCTING A DOCTRINE OF RECEIVING THE SPIRIT FROM THE BOOK OF ACTS. IN FACT, AS I'VE ALREADY SAID, IT IS THE ONLY PART OF THE N.T. THAT YOU CAN DO SO FROM.
Sure. I understand where you're coming from with that. There is little doubt that many use Acts as a place from which to draw doctrine.
WHAT DO WE FIND HAPPENING IN THE BOOK OF ACTS AT THE MOMENT PEOPLE RECEIVE THE SPIRIT? SPEAKING IN TONGUES.
On some ocassions yes. But the point I was making in posting Drew Dixon's article is that this is not always the case. You can ignore that point all you like, but it is still a fact. Not everyone in the book of Acts exhibits tongues at their point of salvation. I know you touch on this later in your post, but whether tongues is always the sign or not (by inference), you simply cannot say that Acts ALWAYS says they spoke in tongues when saved. It's simply not there.
IN ACTS 2, ON THE DAY OF PENTECOST, WHEN THE FIRST DISCIPLES RECEIVED THE SPIRIT, WHAT DID THE NON-CHRISTIAN CROWD SEE AND HEAR THAT SO AMAZED THEM AND CAUGHT THEIR ATTENTION?
DID THEY SEE THE "LOVE" OF THE DISCIPLES? WERE THEY AMAZED COZ THEY SAW THE "PATIENCE" OR "GENTLENESS" OF THE DISCIPLES?
NO. IT WAS TONGUES.
I feel you are looking at these verses as proof-texts for your doctrine, rather than looking at what it actually says. If we are to try to use this a a normative example of someone's salvation then we need to consider a few points.
1. There was the sound of a rushing wind.
2. Tongues of fire appeared over the apostles.
3. The apostles spoke in tongues.
4. People heard these tongues as being their own diverse languages.
So, if your belief that Acts 2 is a normative salvation account then we MUST also expect wind, tongues of fire, and immediate translation of the tongues by someone who naturally speaks that language. But all these things combined NEVER happen doe they? In othr words, ACTS 2 IS NORMATIVE FOR NO ONE EXCEPT THE APOSTLES!!!
But wait! There's more!
Now if I can take this even further and quote Ian Thomason here, who is well versed in Koine Greek,
"When the current versification of the Bible is removed, the artificial division that separates 1:26 from 2:1-4 disappears. What we find is that the antecedent to the verb 'they-were-filled' (as in "...they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues") is héndeka apostólon: the eleven apostles with whom Matthias had recently been added. As is the case with English, the action of the Greek verb effects the subject of the sentence or passage. In this instance, the grammatical subject of the passage is the eleven apostles. The 'one hundred and twenty' of verse 15 cannot function as the subject of the account. As I mentioned earlier, Luke's Greek is very polished. It's clear, then, that he intended to impress upon his readers that the twelve apostles alone spoke the languages ('tongues') at Pentecost." (http://pleaseconsider.info/index_frame.htm?../articles/acts/acts2.htm)
In other words, the others of the 120 did not have tongues of fire upon them nor did they speak in tongues. This is why most religious art depicting the Day of Pentecost only shows the Apostles having this experience.
This is not an attempt by mainstream churches to denounce the tongues doctrine, such was not even heard of when these paintings were done. Rather their tradition reflects the Greek text.
Then further on the account we read that:
3000 MORE AND NO TONGUES!!!
So what you have here Brett is not a solid proof-text for your Revivalist doctrine at all. Rather it affirms the opposite that not everyone spoke in tongues on the Day of Pentecost.
As I have said, please don't think this is an attack on your tongues experience. It isn't. Rather it is a challenge to your assumptions and preconceptions (birthed and nurtured in the cult) about speaking in tongues in the Bible.
Glossolalia is fabricated, meaningless speech.
According to Dr. William T. Samarin, professor of anthropology and linguistics at the University of Toronto,
glossolalia consists of strings of meaningless syllables made up of sounds taken from those familiar to the speaker and put together more or less haphazardly .... Glossolalia is language-like because the speaker unconsciously wants it to be language-like. Yet in spite of superficial similarities, glossolalia fundamentally is not language (Nickell, 108).
When spoken by schizophrenics, glossolalia are recognized as gibberish. In charismatic Christian communities glossolalia is sacred and referred to as "speaking in tongues" or having "the gift of tongues." In Acts of the Apostles, tongues of fire are described as alighting on the Apostles, filling them with the Holy Spirit. Allegedly, this allowed the Apostles to speak in their own language but be understood by foreigners from several nations. Glossolalics, on the other hand, speak in a foreign language and are understood by nobody.
Glossolalics behave in various ways, depending upon the social expectations of their community. Some go into convulsions or lose consciousness; others are less dramatic. Some seem to go into a trance; some claim to have amnesia of their speaking in tongues. All believe they are possessed by the Holy Spirit and the gibberish they utter is meaningful. However, only one with faith and the gift of interpretation is capable of figuring out the meaning of the meaningless utterances. Of course, this belief gives the interpreter unchecked leeway in "translating" the meaningless utterances. Nicholas Spanos notes: "Typically, the interpretation supports the central tenets of the religious community" (Spanos, 147).
Stuttering gibberish that is interpreted as profound mystical insight by holy men is an ancient practice. In Greece, even the priest of Apollo, god of light, engaged in prophetic babbling. The ancient Israelites did it. So did the Jansenists, the Quakers, the Methodists, and the Shakers.
For a more detailed
1) The Rest: God spoke of the Rest as something that we absolutely MUST enter. The only scriptural position I could find in response to the ABSOLUTE STATEMENT from GOD was found in Isaiah 28:9-12. This verse placed me in a position where Tongues was the only initial outward evidence to the individual where they could know with scriptural certainty that they had entered this place of Rest. I feel cornered by this statement. If I profess to be in agreement with Hebrews Chapter 4, which emphasises the requirement of entry into the/a Rest. But cannot say amen to "stammering lips and another tongue" where does that leave me.
I thought you said you gave this some study and knew bible history? Let's have a look at the verse: Isa.28:11 "For with another tongue will he speak to this people." As you would know, the Isaiah scripture clearly records the time when the Babylonians came in to destroy and captivate Judah, and by hearing those who spoke in a foreign strange language they would know God's judgement had come. This was the rest and refreshing they were trying to enter but could not because 'they did not hear'... They would not hear. Paul refered to this terrible time in history and reminded his church that the tongues (languages) of the enemy at that terrible time were a sign of their unbelief. Tongues are a sign of God's judgement to unbelievers.
Haven't you and the rest of Revivians ever thought it weird that it says that it's another tongue he will speak to this people. It's not the this people that are actually doing the tongue speaking. It's refering to a normal human language that is different to the native tongue. Amazing how self-centred we can be to imagine that the language we personally speak is the central important one.
1 Corinthians 14 that "tongues are a sign to the unbelievers, tongues are a sign of God's judgment to unbelievers
Isaiah 28:11 "For with another tongue will he speak to this people."
This people were the Jews at Pentecost to authenticate the Gospel they were preaching. When the Northern kingdom were gobsmacked in disbelief they were taken captive by the Assyrians and could not understand the language spoken. Amazing this historical and well known even in Jewish history has been convoluted into the glossalalian theology.
GWM - Why do you think Paul refered to Isaiah 28 when refering to Tongues as a sign to the unbeliever?
Okay... I did cover that but obviously you weren't reading me because I explained what Paul was referrring to when he reminded his church of Isaiah 28... perhaps if I reword it a little for you:
Isa.28:11 "For with another tongue will he speak to this people." - by hearing those who spoke in a foreign strange language they would know God's judgement had come. Paul refered to this terrible time in history and reminded his church that the tongues are a sign of unbelief. Tongues are a sign of God's judgement to unbelievers.
You see, it's all about context. The ones in Isaiah who were speaking in another tongue were the enemy! EEK!!! He wasn't talking about.
See, the funny thing is that Paul was using the story to warn the followers of what would happen if they ignore the gospel message they were preaching. Because he slips in a reference to the enemy using another language, Revivalsists and co slip it into the bag of 'tongues' references.
The following is an excerpt from an exaustive study on the subject, it can be found 'here'.
Okay, given that we'll be touching upon Isaiah 28, I note the remarkable irony of my current situation when I read in the prophet's words (vv. 9 & 10): "Whom will he teach knowledge, and to whom will he explain the message? Those who are weaned from milk, those taken from the breast? For it is precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little." As I hope will become clear, given the current circumstance, that the prophet's words are very ironic indeed! I strongly recommend that you have a Bible handy as you read along with what I've written, so as to follow the flow of the argument that I am attempting to make. So let's hook in!
2) The 16th Chapter of Mark: Mark -20 gives five signs of believers. These signs were evident with the early church as they have been in my life. The critic would say, "Have you picked up snakes with your hands"??? The answer is no insomuch as physical serpents. I have however seen from scripture that the term "Pick up" can be and indeed should be, given the context "make to doubt". Equally to drink any deadly thing should be "imbibe, take in and keep mentally".
(paraphrased by Moth -me- without permission of the author)
Revivalists use Mark 16 as a standard 'proof-text' for their Pentecostal experience, but there seems to be some selective reading. For years the RCI has followed pastor Lloyd's unique interpretation that Mark 16 should be read as a parable from verse 9 onwards. See the essay essay, titled "Is it a Parable?" that effectively demolishes that line of argument.
... consulted many commentaries on 'Mark' that were written from the fourth century onwards in an effort to locate anyone at any point in history, who has offered a similar suggestion to that provided by Lloyd Longfield. He was unable to find one. Therefore it should be in question.
You know the scripture: "...preach the gospel to everyone. The one who believes and is baptised will be saved, but the one who doesn't believe will be condemned. These signs will accompany those who believe: drive out demons..., new languages..., pick up snakes... unharmed from poison,.... place hands on sick."
Jesus' parting words to his disciples were, "go into the world, and preach the gospel to everyone!" To Christ, the most important thing in the world wasn't that the disciples go into it, but that the gospel was preached: the sole command in the verse is "preach the gospel". I offer that a misunderstanding of the nature of the gospel invariably leads to a misunderstanding of the nature of salvation. History demonstrates that such confusion all too frequently results in a rapid spiral into works-based, human-centric; fear-breeding forms of religious legalism, as such remains the natural religion of fallen human beings.
Ian has a lot of neat stuff here to say about the greek but if I skim over it I'm sure many others will. So I recommend checking the original manuscript to go deeper.
We now arrive at the most disputed portion of this biblical passage: Christ's teaching on the "signs".
Given that Jesus used the Greek plural for "signs" (sēmeia) in our passage, the first question that we need to ask ourselves is simple: how is this word used in (1) the NT record generally, and (2) Mark's gospel particularly? (Moth - more Greek stuff... refer back... I just can't bring myself to soak it in... I just can't) Mark went on further to describe five specific "signs" (note they are plural) that would "accompany" (a future tense, active voice, indicative mood verb) those who "believe" (again an active voice, aorist participle). They are:
(1) that in Christ's name they will drive out demons;
(2) they will speak in new languages;
(3) they will pick up snakes with their hands, and
(4) whatever poison they drink won't harm them; and finally
(5) that they will place their hands on the sick and they will recover.
The RCI understands the majority of these "signs" (numbers 1, 3 and 4) to be somehow parabolic or metaphorical. The RF, on the other hand, apparently accepts the literal interpretation of the majority of Mark's "signs", but understands them to be latent promises to be called upon as required. However, that confuses what Mark signs", with Paul's "spiritual gifts"! The former, however, serves to demonstrate the reality of God to an unbelieving world; the latter serves to build-up an already believing Christian assembly. In reality though, the RF has also attempted to reinterpret away the simple teaching of Scripture because it doesn't gel with the their doctrine.
Because the Revivalist groups universally claim the gift of tongues (itself a biblically defensible position), and because they universally link this particular spiritual gift with the receiving of God's Holy Spirit in the mystery of salvation (itself not a biblically defensible position); they can't simply jettison Mark 16:15-18 due to the difficulties that a straightforward reading of the passage presents them with.
"Yes, all speak in tongues! Well...we do see some people being healed through prayer sometimes. But clearly it's their fault! They must lack faith! Well, no...we'll have none of that demon stuff and nonsense here, and don't even being with the poison-drinking, snake-handling rubbish!"
Unfortunately though, Mark doesn't allow so casual a picking-and-choosing of what one is prepared to accept as valid when it comes to the "signs" that Mark 16 presents. To him, one either accepts the lot, or one rejects the lot. (see original manuscript for the grammatical reasons).
The RF in particular has assumed two things about Jesus' words at the beginning of verse 17: "these signs shall accompany those who believe". First, that the future tense indicates a promise rather than a prediction. And second, that it's a promise to all believers.
However, given that the statement appears after a conditional sentence (16:16), and given the entire range of subsequent contextual grammatical conditions that Mark presents ("...he that...and is...shall be..."), it's clear that the statement itself should be taken as a prediction rather than as a promise. This is further supported by the fact that each of the six instances of third person plural verbs mentioned with respect to the "signs" of verses 17 and 18, are categorical (or ?generalising') plurals. Categorical plurals separate and distinguish one group, from every other group. This form of plural exists in Greek, as it more easily yields itself to a generic notion: the focus is more towards the action, than it is towards the actor (i.e. "this is the kind of person who does this"). In our text the "signs" serve to distinguish Christian believers as a group, from every other group of people on the planet.
Our current text doesn't teach that all believers will cast out demons through to healing the sick at all. The stress isn't on the notion of promises given to believers it's on the authentication of Christianity as being from God before an unbelieving world. The passage, therefore, teaches that some Christians may speak in tongues. Others may cast out demons. Others still may be involved in the range of supernatural effects that are described, but these effects are simply one part of what it is that demonstrates the uniqueness of the Christian Church as a group separate to and from every other group. The effects?the "signs"?aren't individual promises, they're corporate predictions.
Revivalists collectively appeal to Mark 16:15-20 to authenticate their shared spiritual experience of "tongues", and further, to validate their unique theology that one must speak in tongues in order to be a "true" believer. However, Mark 16:15-20 doesn't reflect or represent the Revivalist theology at all. Each of the Revivalist groups has gone to extraordinary lengths over the years to explain-away the "missing signs", when what has really been missing is a proper appreciation of the passage's true meaning, as it stands. The Revivalist groups, quite simply, have gotten Mark 16 wrong.
There is a common misconception that tongues began at Pentecost, and were 'something new'. In fact, there are references to the tongues experience in earlier Jewish literature.
Philo, a Jewish writer contemporary with Jesus, noted a tradition concerning Sinai:
"it was the Father of the universe who delivered these ten maxims, or oracles, or laws and enactments, as they truly are, to the whole assembled nation of men and women altogether ... he at that time wrought a most conspicuous and evidently holy miracle, commanding an invisible sound to be created in the air ... which fashioned the air and stretched it our and changed it into a kind of flaming fire, and so sounded forth so loud and articulate voice like a breath passing through a trumpet ... the power of God, breathing forth vigorously, aroused and excited a new kind of miraculous voice, and diffusing its sound in every direction, made the end more conspicuous at a distance than the beginning, implanting in the soul of each individual another hearing ... the flame being endowed with articulate speech in a language familiar to the hearers." (De Decalogo. IX-XI)
So there was a fascinating tradition of tongues before the Pentecost experience (see also the Testament of Job). Philo's tradition of events at Sinai may even provide an explanation of what the events at Pentecost meant in Jewish thought of the time. Jewish tradition is that Pentecost falls on the same day as the giving of the Mosaic Law at Sinai. Just as Moses mediated the first covenant at Sinai, the Lord Jesus mediated the better covenant at Jerusalem (Hebrews 12:18-24).
Note the similarities of Moses' experience with the Acts 2 experience. There was a new covenant, people of all nations present, a mighty sound, a tongue of fire, and a voice touching each listener personally. It seems that the Lord wrought the same miracle in Jerusalem as was said to have occurred previously at Sinai. There were tongues in the first covenant, and the Pentecostal tongues showed that the Lord had cut a New Covenant.
Because of the tradition Philo explains, many maintain that the Acts 2 tongues were not necessarily meant as a normative sign every time someone received the Spirit. The tongues were a sign of God's new covenant cut with humankind, with comparisons to the Sinai covenant tradition. Tongues are, in fact, a very poor indication of whether someone is saved or not, as is discussed in the next article.
© 1997, All rights reserved. Feel free to copy and distribute any information on this page as you like, but do not alter or sell it without my permission. Unless otherwise indicated, the Scripture quotations contained herein are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, Copyright 1989, by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A.
"as we were going to the place of prayer, we met a slave girl who had a spirit of divination ... Paul, very much annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, 'I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.'" (Acts 16:16-18)
Acts 16 is a deep Scipture - deceptively simple, but one of those scriptures we come across from time to time that is bursting with meaning beneath the surface. Paul was much annoyed with this girl who had a 'spirit of divination'. Let's look at those words. In Greek, she had a pneu'ma py'tho·na, or literally, "a spirit of python". The NRSV Harper-Collins Study Bible notes of Acts 16:
"Spirit of divination, lit. 'a spirit of the Python,' which was associated with the Delphic oracle."
The Python was a mythical beast which guarded the Oracle of Delphi, near Corinth. At the Oracle of Delphi, travellers would congregate to hear a prophecy of the future for themselves or their country. According to some historians, the Pythoness (priestess) would cry out in unintelligible sounds which were interpreted by another person to form ambiguous verses. To have a spirit of the Python would be to be like the Pythoness - it would be someone who was filled with the demonic spirit of the oracle... someone who would prophecy by crying out in unintelligible sounds!
And as such, there is scriptural evidence in Acts 16 for false tongues. That is not to say that all tongues are wrong. While Paul excorcised this slave girl in Acts from the spirit of the Python, he himself spoke in tongues, and was glad of the experience (1.Cor.14:18). What does it tell us? It tells us clearly that there can be false tongues in the world! As Paul also wrote:
"The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved" (2 Thess 2: 9-10).
What have we learned from the experience of the slave girl? When someone 'speaks in tongues' we cannot be sure that they have salvation, becuase tongues is not a solely Christian phenomenon. According to Professor Maja-Lisa Swartz of the Helsinki University, after her research of the Tanzanian tribes people, "speaking in tongues is nothing specific for the Christian religion. It appears in all religions and is no guarantee for what type of spirit it is that the speaker is speaking for".
For example, John MacArthur writes, in Charismatic Chaos, "Ecstatic speech is a part of many pagan religions in Africa, East Africa. Tonga people of Africa, when a demon is exorcised, sing in Zulu even though they say they don't know the Zulu language. Ecstatic speech is found today among Muslims, Eskimos, Tibetan monks. It is involved in parapsychological occult groups. Did you know that the Mormons, even Joseph Smith himself advocates speaking in tongues? It could be demonic." An Encyclopædia of Occultism says, "Speaking and writing in foreign tongues, or in unintelligible outpourings mistaken for such, is a very old form of psychic phenomenon."
Tongues are, therefore, an unsound evidence of salvation. They can be demonic! Do you say that someone is 'saved' when they speak in tongues? It is a poor test, if even pagans speak in tongues. Are the Tonga people saved when they speak in tongues? Are the Voodoo people, or the Buhhdist monks saved when they speak in tongues?
Tongues is clearly not God's evidence of salvation. And yet, someone can know whether they are saved or not. In 1John 5:13, it is written:
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.
How do you know you have eternal life? John doesn't mention tongues. If tongues were the sign that someone was saved, he would have metioned it there. But instead he says about those who know they have eternal life "you who believe in the name of the Son of God"! Recall the comments about testing the Spirits, "test the spirits to see whether they are from God: for many false prophets have gone out into the world ... every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God" (1John 4:1-3). So how do you know you have the right Spirit and eternal life? The answer turns on whether you can "confess Jesus". It is here that the Tonga people, Voodoos, and Buhhdist priests fail.
Perhaps you speak in tongues, and have always thought it was clear evidence of your salvation. Yet, you see now that tongues cannot prove anything.
For more information please click 'here'.
let's talk about you and me
Let's talk about all the good things
and the bad things that may be
let's talk about tongues...
That was the musical introduction to today's talk on tongues set to the music from the beloved pop song, 'let's talk bout sex'. Of course tongues has nothing to do with sex unless you are a cunning-linguist and if that were actually the 'gift' given at the day of penteconst then we've truly been missing out on something special. Because apparently that is a gift that no man understands... unless gifted.
I was moved to ponder the concept of confusing languages and I think I mentioned earlier my confusion that God rewarded his people of the new testament a language that was confusing to man because only God understood it, yet punished his Old testament people by giving them languages that couldn't be understood by each other.
That lead me to explore the following concepts... which are sort of... confusing.
GE 11:9 At Babel, the Lord confused the language of the whole world.
Prior to the building of the Tower of Babel, which was approximately 100 years after the flood, the people of the earth spoke one language (Gn. 11:1). When the men of the earth began to build the tower without divine specifications and also to make a name for themselves, Yahweh said: "Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech (Gn.11:7)."
They couldn't finish building the tower because they couldn't understand each other's language. This is how mankind began to speak various languages or tongues. Thus, the day of Pentecost is, in reality, the reversal of tongues that previously were confused at the Tower of Babel. At Pentecost men once again began to understand one another form a spiritual sense.
Did the Messiah speak in tongues in His ministry?
During the three and a half years of the Messiah's ministry He spoke parables which are a form of ?tongue' that weren't understood by the people. He didn't speak in another language. The Messiah was born a Hebrew or Israelite and He spoke Hebrew (See the "Did You Know?" section of the Complimentary Issue of the "PLIM REPORT," p. 13). His mission was to fulfill the scriptures (Mt. 5:17-18), which were also written in Hebrew.
Many of the prophets prophesied that the Messiah would speak to Israel in another tongue. Isaiah the prophet wrote under the influence of the Holy Spirit: "For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people (Isa. 28:11)." The Apostle Paul wrote: "In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith Yahweh (the Lord, 1 Cor. 14:21)." Now one may ask, if the Messiah's native tongue were Hebrew, what did Isaiah mean when he wrote that the Messiah would speak in another tongue.
Historically, the most controversial gift has been tongues. It was controversial on the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem; it was controversial a few years later in Caesarea; it was controversial later on in Corinth. Throughout the centuries, small groups of Christians have occasionally spoken in tongues, almost always generating controversy.
Today, millions of Christians speak in tongues. Some are found in Roman Catholic churches, some in liberal mainstream groups, some in conservative evangelical churches, and many in Pentecostal denominations. Even though tongues-speaking has such diverse participants, it is still controversial. So now, I hope to give some perspective on this practice, both to help people who are afraid of it, and those who think too highly of this gift.
The modern resurgence of tongue-speaking is generally traced to the turn of the century. In 1900, Charles Parham and a small group in Kansas began to speak in tongues after studying about this gift in the Bible. In 1906, Parham went to Los Angeles and spoke at the Azusa Street Mission Revival (no connection with Azusa Pacific University), and the movement quickly spread from there.
In the early years, most denominations rejected tongues-speaking as lunacy or demonic, and as one might expect, tongues-speakers left such hostile churches and formed churches in which they were allowed and encouraged to speak in tongues. Thus Pentecostal denominations such as the Assemblies of God were formed.
There is no question that many of these Pentecostal churches had numerous theological errors. They made many mistakes in their zeal to follow God. As time went on, they learned more and corrected many of their errors. This is a dynamic that we should well understand.
In the 1960s, another wave of tongues-speaking occurred in more traditional churches. This time, many churches did not ridicule or drive these people away; they were accepted as charismatic sub-groups within the churches. Nevertheless, tongues-speaking is still controversial. Some Christians teach that God simply does not give miraculous gifts to anyone in the church today; yet others still claim that all Christians ought to seek and practice the gift of tongues.
As recounted in his Autobiography, Herbert Armstrong encountered some Pentecostal people in his early ministry, and he found them to be divisive. And after such experiences, he was strongly opposed to tongues-speaking, even though he was strongly in favor of other miraculous gifts, such as healing. The WCG remained opposed to tongues for decades, and if anybody ever spoke in tongues, they kept pretty quiet about it.
But more recently, we have recognized that some Christians do indeed speak in tongues. We have been slower to criticize and more willing to consider the possibility that tongues-speaking may be an authentic gift of the Holy Spirit. Meanwhile, WCG members have visited tongues-speaking churches, and some of our members and ministers have begun to speak in tongues, usually in private.
Knowing how controversial tongues have been in other churches, and knowing our previous dogmatic rejection of tongues, it is no surprise that questions arise when some of our members and ministers begin to speak in tongues, even privately. Due to our lack of experience in this area, it is also no surprise that some excesses have occurred. New-found zeal sometimes carries people further than it should.
Information about Tongues
Since Scripture is our ultimate authority for doctrine and Christian living, it is essential that we understand what the Bible says about tongues. Here I will refer you to our booklet on tongues. Although this booklet is now out of stock, it is still a good analysis of the subject.
For those who want further study on this subject, the booklet has a bibliography of helpful resources, written from several perspectives. I also refer you to the book Are Miraculous Gifts For Today? Four Views, edited by Wayne Grudem (Zondervan, 1996). I will not enter the detailed arguments addressed in the book, but I will simply affirm that I believe that God still performs miracles today. I see no biblical reason to think that he no longer gives anyone the ability to speak in tongues.
However, simply because someone "speaks in tongues" does not mean that he or she has this spiritual gift. As our booklet pointed out, various non-Christians, from ancient pagans to modern Buddhists, have spoken in tongues. Tongues-speaking, in itself, is no proof of anything. (Similarly, non-Christians may also have leadership, service, compassion, teaching and other abilities that are similar to spiritual gifts.)
Some tongues-speaking is also called ecstatic speech, which is a psychomotor function of the brain. In normal speech, two parts of the brain work together. In ecstatic speech, one part of the brain tells the mouth and tongue to speak, but the conscious portion of the brain does not supply any particular guidance for what words to speak, so unintelligible syllables come out. This can happen if a person is startled, for example, or if consciousness is altered in some way.
Also, some tongues-speaking may be done in imitation (perhaps subconsciously) of a respected leader. People who are seeking a particular experience are (like hypnotized people) psychologically very susceptible to suggestions like that.
However, I do not think that all tongues-speaking can be explained in these ways, and I believe that some tongues-speaking is genuinely a gift of God. I also recognize that God sometimes works through observable phenomena, and just because some tongues-speaking has a psychomotor explanation does not mean it isn't a gift.
As I have written before, the psychological state in which tongues-speaking occurs is usually pleasant. It is liberating to get rid of some of their inhibitions. It is encouraging to put oneself in a very responsive state, ready to respond to God working in their lives. Tongues-speaking is not the only way to do this, but it is one way, and it encourages people in their walk with the Lord.
One pastor observed the irony that most Christians can talk about almost any spiritual gift with nothing but praise, but as soon as tongues is mentioned, it has to be accompanied by all sorts of cautionary statements. I agree that this is an irony. All sorts of spiritual gifts can be misused, and cautions can be given for them all. But historically, and in our present experience, tongues causes the most problems and needs the most caution. But still, I affirm that it is one of God's spiritual gifts, and it is therefore good.
I respect and honor Christians who speak in tongues; I respect and honor those who do not. I do not want to quench the Spirit; I do not want to "forbid speaking in tongues" (1 Cor. 14:39).
But I also want to follow what Paul said in the very next verse: "Everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way" (v. 40). So let me address how tongues, if used, should be done in an orderly way. Again, since Scripture is our ultimate guide for doctrine and Christian living, let us examine what Scripture says about how tongues should be used.
First, Paul reminds the Corinthians that God divides his gifts among his people (1 Cor. 12:8-11; 29-30). It is not realistic to expect everyone to speak in tongues — and yet that is what some Pentecostals unfortunately do. This is divisive today, just as it was in ancient Corinth.
When a Christian says, my gift is better than your gift, it is an insult to other Christians, and an insult to God. No one should feel superior about a spiritual gift, since no one deserves any of the gifts. The gifts are given to serve others, not to feel superior to others.
We do not need to seek the gift of tongues. We need to seek God, and let him decide which gift is best for us. Paul says we should seek the "more excellent way"— love (1 Cor. 12:31 and chapter 13)— or the gift of prophecy, which is speaking words of encouragement, comfort and edification (1 Cor. 14:1-4).
Without love, we are spiritually worthless, no matter what tongues we speak. It reminds me of the story of one person who attended a Pentecostal church for several years and became a lay leader in one of the ministries. Eventually it was learned that this leader had never spoken in tongues, and people were shocked that the leader was "deficient" in the Christian experience! Yet the person drew a different conclusion from the situation: speaking in tongues made no discernible difference in the way a person lives. Even after years of being around a person, others simply could not know whether the person had ever spoken in tongues.
My friend Jack Hayford says he speaks in tongues in his prayers every day. That does not impress me, nor does he expect it to. That is not its purpose. Tongues is not a show of spirituality. It is to edify the self, not to impress others (v. 4). If it edifies the self, that's wonderful. If it is done to impress others, it's being used in a wrong way, a carnal way. Paul said he spoke in tongues a lot (v. 18). He knew what it meant to pray in words he did not understand (v. 14). But he also knew that this was not proof of spiritual greatness.
I don't care how often Jack speaks in tongues. What I care about is the way he lives the rest of his time. Does he live and function in love? Does he use his other gifts to edify the body of Christ? Does he walk humbly and give all glory to God? I think he sets a good example in all these areas. His tongues-speaking neither adds to nor takes away from his character as a Christian.
To use another example, I don't care whether you eat cereal or eggs for breakfast. Neither one makes you a better person. But I do care if you exalt your particular preference into a badge of betterness. "Everybody ought to be like me because I like the way I am." Such approaches are divisive and un-Christian. They also miss Paul's point, that God has distributed his gifts among his people and he wants them to work together in their diversity.
The Corinthian Christians had a lot of problems, and apparently the way they spoke in tongues was a problem in the church. Paul told them to stop being proud and arrogant. He told them to stop being self-centered. He told them to grow up and be more sensible (v. 20). But he did not tell them to stop speaking in tongues.
However, he did lay down some regulations, and they were quite limiting. For example: Only one person should speak at a time (v. 27). Church services should not be a competition to see who can talk the most. The Holy Spirit does not inspire more than one person to speak at a time.
Second, people should speak in tongues only if an interpreter is present (v. 28). Incidentally, it is interesting that many people want to speak in tongues, but not many "seek" the gift of interpretation, even though interpretation is of greater value to the church. I think this shows that tongues have been overvalued. Unfortunately, in some churches, tongues are often spoken without an interpreter present. The person simply speaks whether or not an interpreter is there, contrary to the instructions Paul gave.
And what if the speaker doesn't know whether an interpreter is present? Then the speaker ought to remain silent. After all, if the gift is genuine, the speaker should be able to control it (v. 32). God does not bypass a person's willpower. Indeed, part of the fruit of God's Spirit is self-control (Gal. 5:23; 2 Tim. 1:7).
One Pasadena church that I know of has an interesting approach to tongues-speaking. People who want to practice this gift may do so — not during the regular church service, but in their own small group meetings. And then there must be two or more interpreters present. The interpreters write down the interpretation, and then they see whether the interpretations match. Sometimes they do, but often they do not, which means that either one or both of the interpreters are mistaken. This cautions us not to be too quick to believe any uncorroborated interpretation — and certainly not if it contradicts Scripture!
It would just be a lot easier if people sought the gift of prophecy — speaking edifying and intelligible words — rather than tongues, which might not help anybody else (v. 5). Tongues and interpretations are often misunderstood. Even prophesy can be misunderstood, which is why Paul advises us, "the others should weigh carefully what is said" (v. 29).
However, even if an interpreter is present, it is simply best not to speak in tongues in the church service. The gift of tongues is for self-edification, not for edifying anyone else (v. 4). It just doesn't make sense for one member to interrupt everyone else and say, "Hold everything. Just wait a few minutes please while I edify myself. Watch me and listen to me, even though it won't do you any good." Tongues, since they help only the speaker, are appropriate for private prayers, but not for public assemblies.
Tongues are also a distraction. Public tongues-speaking almost always focuses attention on the speaker, not on God. Non-Christians are usually put off by tongues-speaking. Some find it quite fascinating, of course, and some even consider it to be proof of divine blessing, but most do not. It is confusing, and if the person realizes that various non-Christians also speak in tongues, it is also inconclusive. People need to be impressed by the gospel, not by unusual phenomena. If the person is convinced by emotional impressions rather than truth, the person has an unstable foundation for belief. Emotions are important, of course, but they should be a response to the gospel, not a substitute for it.
Paul warned the Corinthians not to allow tongues to get out of control in their worship services, since it could confuse unbelievers: "If the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and some who do not understand or some unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind?" (v. 23). It is not surprising, then, that some Christians also consider it inappropriate.
However, Paul had nothing against tongues-speaking. After all, he spoke in tongues himself (v. 18). But he did have a lot to say against tongues-speaking in church assemblies. "In the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue" (v. 19).
That is what we in the Worldwide Church of God prefer. We want intelligible words; we do not want unintelligible words in our meetings. That is why I say that we are not a tongues-speaking fellowship. Some people in our fellowship speak in tongues, and I defend their privilege to do so in private or in small groups where everyone agrees to accept it. Even then, it needs to be controlled according to the scriptural guidelines.
As a fellowship, when we are gathered as a congregation, we do not want tongues-speaking. This is based not on some irrational fear of things we don't understand — it is based on the guidance Paul has given us, guidance we accept as authoritative, as inspired by the Holy Spirit.
If somebody wants to speak in tongues in a worship service, there are other denominations that allow that sort of thing. If they find it to be self-edifying, that's good, but I encourage them to seek and to use some other spiritual gift that will be helpful to others.
I might also add that even some Pentecostal churches do not allow tongues-speaking in church services. Many of them also recognize that it is unscriptural to allow everybody to speak at once, to speak without an interpreter present, etc. If the pastor were giving a sermon, for example, and a person in the audience began to speak in tongues, then the pastor would tell the person, "Lady (or Sir), control your gift. The spirits of the prophets are subject to the control of prophets. If you cannot control your gift, the ushers will escort you out." Interrupting the sermon would be just as inappropriate as a person trying to sing a hymn in the middle of the sermon. It is good to sing hymns, but only at the right time and place. Similarly, we do not allow tongues-speaking in our regular worship services.
Expressing Joy in Christ
Now, I love our Pentecostal brothers and sisters a great deal. Many of you interact with them in ministerial associations, and you have also come to love them. Many of them have warmly embraced us as fellow-members in the family of God. The Four Square denomination in particular has been helpful to us. I praise their love for the Lord and their love for neighbor. Many of them set an excellent example.
Pentecostal churches are now the fastest-growing segment of Christianity, especially in Latin America, but also in North America, Europe and Asia. I suspect that one reason it is growing is that Pentecostal churches encourage people to express their emotions rather than suppress them. This can be bad, of course, if people's faith is built on emotions, but it is good if those emotions are a genuine response to the good news of Jesus Christ.
If people really understand the depths of their sinful state, of how utterly disgusting it is, and of the greatness of Jesus' sacrifice for us, of how astonishing his grace toward us is, then it is natural to respond with joy and exuberance — and this emotion does not need to be suppressed, though how it is expressed may vary widely from person to person. We have something worth singing about, something to be happy about. Although we may still be in poverty, we have experienced something wonderful in the love of Jesus Christ, and we share it.
Pentecostal churches are generally freer in how they express this joy. Visitors who attend a Pentecostal church are likely to see people expressing joy and happiness because of their faith in Jesus Christ. This example is an effective aid in evangelism and church growth.
Of course, Pentecostal churches are not the only ones who effectively express their joy in worshiping their Savior, and they are not the only churches that are growing, but as a group, they seem to do it more actively than most. Although I do not agree with all their theology, and certainly not the emphasis on the public practice of tongues-speaking, I do applaud them for the things they are doing well.
Scripture is the ultimate authority for what we do. If growth alone were evidence of truth, then we might all become Muslims or Mormons. Experience may be helpful, but it is not authoritative. Experience may even be very impressive, but that alone does not make it authoritative. Even so, it is still very impressive.
Consider a not-so-unusual example, a person who attends a Protestant church every week, but rarely (if ever) experiences the presence of God in his or her own church services. He has doubts as to his own walk with the Lord. He wants to have greater assurance that he is making progress. He wants to have tangible, observable evidence that the Lord is with him. Then he attends a church in which the preacher confidently, boldly, dogmatically says that "yes, you can have confidence if you have a certain experience. That will give you the assurance of the presence of God in your life."
The person wants this experience. It doesn't matter whether it is really proof — it is desirable. And once it comes, it is extremely self-authenticating and reinforcing. The person wanted reassurance, was told in a persuasive way that the particular experience would give him that assurance, and then he had the experience, and true enough, he gained assurance! The person becomes sold on the experience and sometimes even becomes an "evangelist" for the experience.
This has happened within the WCG, just as it has happened in other denominations. People who were spiritually yearning, and not completely grounded doctrinally, were overwhelmed by a particular experience. I do not doubt that the experience was powerful and spiritual. It may have been an enormous spiritual boost, or the highlight of one's life. But that does not mean that it is true, or that everyone should have the same experience, or that Christians should be looked down on if they do not have the same experience. The shock treatment that helped one patient is not the right medicine for the next patient.
More Unusual Manifestations
For many years, speaking in tongues was the primary experience promoted in some Pentecostal circles. But in more recent years, more exotic experiences have been promoted — such things as being slain in the Spirit (fainting and remaining motionless for several hours), laughing in the Spirit (uncontrollable waves of laughter), weeping in the Spirit, barking like a dog, or other para-normal activities. These may be called the Toronto Blessing or the Pensacola Blessing or some other blessing. Several prominent speakers, including Benny Hinn, have promoted some of these exciting phenomena.
These phenomena have been controversial, even in Pentecostal churches. The Toronto Blessing, for example, began in the Vineyard church. Some Vineyard churches promoted the blessing; others resisted it, and now they have split into two denominations. But the blessing makes ripples in many other denominations, too, and has affected some WCG members. The Pensacola Blessing has circulated primarily in the Assemblies of God, but it has also affected other denominations, including our own.
I do not doubt that these experiences are extremely powerful. They feel authentic. But they have unfortunately led some astray, away from biblical authority and into an authority that is based on personal experience. As an extreme example, a pastor who has become enamored with a particular blessing may exhort everyone in the congregation to seek this particular blessing (the blessing, it sometimes seems, gets more focus than Jesus does). He may publicly berate those who do not accept the experience. He may call out names or tell people to leave if they don't like it.
This is, to put it bluntly, legalism. (Sometimes it is easy to call things we don't like an insulting term, like "legalism," but I am confident that in this case I am using the term legalism correctly. It is teaching as a requirement something that is not in Scripture.) We've had experience with old covenant legalism. These people are experiencing a completely nonbiblical legalism. Legalism is unfortunately found in many segments of Christianity, and some of these "blessing" people have fallen into a form of legalism, in which they insist that everybody ought to be like them.
Now suppose the whole congregation got touched and remained unconscious for three hours. Would that make them better Christians, better followers of Jesus Christ? Jesus never did anything of the sort. People who are slain in the spirit do not come out any better than they went in. The experience may encourage them, reassure them, but it does not edify the body of Christ and it should not be promoted as normal or preferable. Would these people eventually yearn for something yet more exotic? At least for some, that has been the pattern. Since the experience is not grounded in any objective truth, it does not give people the solid assurance that they seek. Some eventually seek even more unusual "signs."
One of our pastors observed the results of the Pensacola revival at a nearby Pentecostal church. After an initial flurry of excitement, attendance gradually dropped in half. The same manifestations week after week simply did not build the people up. The focus was on what happened to people during church, and not on what they did the rest of the time. The "revival" has driven away half the church!
Many of the "blessing" people are Christians who love Jesus. But as we know from our own experience, it is quite possible to be Christian while also seriously wrong on major doctrinal questions. I do not want to bash and condemn. I do not attack the people, or call them agents of Satan, but I do have the responsibility, as an under-shepherd of Jesus Christ, to warn our members about false, destructive and divisive doctrines. I want to help people avoid the pain and suffering that comes from following religious errors. The truth sets people free, but errors lead people into bondage.
We do not speak in tongues in our worship services, and we do not promote the more exotic "Pentecostal" manifestations.
To use an analogy, what you eat for breakfast is your own business — but no matter how good it tastes to you, do not act like your choice is spiritually better than other people's. Do not try to get everyone to act like you do. If you have a particular gift, be thankful and rejoice, but do not be divisive. Whatever gift you have, use it to serve others, keeping Scripture as your ultimate authority for faith and practice.