by Cody Francis
It was January 1, 1901, the beginning of a New Year, and nearly the beginning of a new century. It was definitely the beginning of a new era in the field of religion.
It all began in a small Bible school in Topeka, Kansas on that first day of the Twentieth Century. A student in that Bible school had a most unusual experience for that time, but which has become increasingly common since then he spoke with ecstatic utterances, calling it the gift of tongues.
Throughout history there have been occasional incidents when an individual, or groups of individuals, have spoken in this ecstatic utterance, but this time was different. This time it sparked a movement that has claimed to be “the largest and most important religious movement to originate in the United States.” The Origins of the Pentecostal Movement, by Vinson Synan, Ph.D.
From its small Midwestern beginnings it has become one of the largest religious movements of our day. By 1993 the Pentecostal movement had become “the largest family of Protestants in the world.” Ibid. According to the International Bulletin of Missionary Research, by mid-1999 there were over 449,000,000 Pentecostals and Charismatics. Unquestioningly, this has become a prominent force in our contemporary religious world. There are “over 11,000 Pentecostal denominations throughout the world,” and in the 1960’s the charismatic movement had “spread to all of the 150 major Protestant families of the world,” and had crossed the gulf to include millions of Catholics as well. Ibid.
What has made this one of the most rapidly growing religious movements in history? Doctrines vastly vary, but there is one thing that the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement has in common–“tongue-speaking.”
With such a prominent and rapidly expanding movement, it is crucial to investigate it, along with its common bond of “tongue-speaking.” If this movement is a great revival of Pentecost and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, surely we do not want to miss being a part of it; but if this is a counterfeit revival from the enemy, we must flee from it as if our lives were at stake.
Does the Bible predict such a revival to take place, or does it predict that there will be a false revival? How can we tell if this movement is from God? What is the gift of tongues? Is there a true gift of tongues? Is there a false gift of tongues? What does God’s Word say?
A True Gift
We find undeniable evidence in God’s Word that there is a true gift of tongues. No Bible believing Christian will question this fact. There are three recorded instances when the gift of tongues was given to the apostles and disciples. There is further reference to this gift in one of Paul’s epistles. (See I Corinthians.) The Bible speaks of it as a true gift given by the Lord. There is a true gift of tongues. So, the question becomes, is that which is currently promoted and seen today as tongue-speaking, the true Biblical gift.
The heart of the tongue-speaking movement’s message is Acts 2. In the second chapter of Acts is found the first instance when the Christian church was given the gift of tongues. Because it is the first time that anything like this is recorded in the Bible, great detail is given. There is great elaboration, to make sure that we understand exactly what this gift is and why it was given. Jesus, in His departing words, had promised, “For John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Acts 1:5. Again Jesus had foretold of the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8. With these precious promises given, the disciples began to search their hearts and prepare for this marvelous event. For ten days they continued in prayer and humiliation that they might receive this gift promised by the Lord.
After spending ten days on their knees, the Lord poured out His Spirit in answer to their prayers. “Now when the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” Acts 2:1-4.
After much heart searching, confession, prayer and preparation, the Lord abundantly fulfilled His Word. It was fulfilled in a very marked way to give great impetus to the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus. There were only a few disciples and a commission to warn the entire world, and so, for this reason, the Lord gave largely of His Spirit. Obviously, the disciples received the true gift of tongues, but what was this true gift?
“Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem, Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, ‘Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs–we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.” Acts 2:5-11. What was the gift of tongues that the disciples received? It was the ability to speak in other languages. A true miracle indeed! It takes years to learn a language fluently, and even then there is usually an accent; but not so when the true gift of tongues was given. Instantaneously, the disciples were able to communicate with those who spoke totally different languages than what the disciples spoke. This was indeed a remarkable day.
It was the feast of weeks, one of the required feasts for the Jewish males to attend. The city of Jerusalem was crowded with pilgrims from the outlying areas, and it was at this time that God chose to pour out His Spirit in a marked way. When the sound from the outpouring of the Spirit was heard, the curious crowd came flocking together to see what was happening. With thousands of people gathering around to hear, the disciples began to speak, but this was no normal speech. It was with the gift of tongues. It caused great confusion and amazement. Never before had men been able to speak a language that they had not learned. It caused such consternation to the wondering crowd, that they enumerated the different languages that were spoken and understood. There were fifteen total: Parthians, Medes, Elamites, Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, Libya, Rome, Cretans and Arabs. There is no question about it; the gift of tongues was the ability to speak another language, fluently, without ever having learned it.
Why was this gift given? It was for the proclamation of the gospel. With such a large number of Jews from all over the world in attendance, the message could then spread with lightning speed. The Jews would hear the gospel of Jesus and take it back to their homes. Then Christianity would grow exponentially. The purpose of the outpouring of the Spirit and the gift of tongues was not to give evidence that they were baptized with the Spirit, but to spread the everlasting gospel far and wide.
It is true that the priests and rulers opposed this gift. This should not be surprising, for they were the very ones who crucified our Lord and Savior. They were the very ones who bribed the soldiers to silence the testimony of the resurrection. Once again they hardened their heart against the display of God’s power, and attempted to attribute this miracle to natural causes. They claimed that the disciples were drunk with wine. (See Acts 2:13.) Peter quickly silences that ludicrous objection by showing it to be a fulfillment of the Old Testament Scriptures. “But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh:” Acts 2:16, 17. The manifestation of the Spirit was not vain babbling that could be confused for a drunken man’s speech; it was the perfectly understood use of foreign languages&. everyone heard them speak in his own language…. And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? We hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.” Acts 2:6, 8, 11. The preaching of the disciples was not indiscernible babbling that was then deciphered by the hearers; it was distinct languages spoken by the disciples under the power of the Holy Spirit. This is the true gift of tongues.
In the New Testament there are two usages of the word, tongues: 1) the physical tongue in the mouth, or an object shaped like it and 2) languages. There is generally no question about the body part which we call the tongue. It is the fact that tongues mean known languages, that can be misunderstood at times. “We hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.” “And have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands.” “And he said to me, ‘You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings.'” “Then those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations will see their dead bodies three and a half days, and not allow their dead bodies to be put into graves.” “And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation.” “Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people” “And he said to me, ‘The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues.'” Acts 2:11; Revelation 5:9; 7:9; 10:11; 11:9; 13:7; 14:6; 17:15. Over and over again, particularly in Revelation, is the word “tongue” or “tongues” used, meaning languages. When the apostles received the gift of tongues, it enabled them to speak in other languages to be able to spread the gospel, and tongues is repeatedly used by Bible writers meaning languages. The true gift of tongues, then, is the God-given ability to speak other languages.
A False Gift
The very fact that there is something true, is usually an indicator that the devil has counterfeited it, making something false, in order to deceive, as well. This is true in the case of tongues. Not only can God give the miraculous gift of speaking in other languages before unknown, but the devil can also speak through people. “Now there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, saying, ‘Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are–the Holy One of God.’ But Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be quiet, and come out of him!’ And when the unclean spirit had convulsed him and cried out with a loud voice, he came out of him.” Mark 1:23-26. Notice that the unclean spirit “cried out” and then it records what he said (vs. 23) and then, when Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, he “cried out with a loud voice.” (vs. 26) The unclean spirit was speaking through the possessed man. No one will question that this was not the Lord speaking through this man. It was an unclean spirit or demon speaking through him. Without question, then, demons can counterfeit the gift of tongues and speak through human beings. This is not just one isolated instance. “And he cried out with a loud voice and said, ‘What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You, by God, that You do not torment me.’ For He said to him, ‘Come out of the man, unclean spirit!’ Then He asked him, ‘What is your name?’ And he answered, saying, ‘My name is Legion; for we are many.’ And he begged Him earnestly that He would not send them out of the country. Now a large herd of swine was feeding there near the mountains. And all the demons begged Him, saying, ‘Send us to the swine, that we may enter them.'” Mark 5:7-12. Once again demons can be seen speaking through a man. It even says, “all the demons begged Him.” It cannot be misunderstood–demons have the ability to speak through humans. There is a false gift of tongues.
The incident recorded in Acts is the first time that the true gift of languages was given, but for years previous to this, ecstatic utterances had been observed and noted. These ecstatic utterances had nothing to do with Christianity or the God of heaven, though. These ecstatic utterances were found in the heathen religions of the day, but never in the true religion of the God of heaven. An account of such activity can be seen in a papyrus in the Moscow Museum, describing an incident that occurred during the twenty-first dynasty in Egypt. The story tells of a temple official who was going about his duties in the temple when he became possessed, went into a frenzy, and began to use ecstatic utterances. (See Ancient Near East Texts, edited by James B. Pritchard, Princetown, New Jersey: Princetown University Press, 1955, pg. 26)
The Greek philosopher, Plato, also mentions this occurrence in the realms of Paganism. He gives instances in which ecstatic utterances, praying, and even healing, accompany this form of possession. “Virgil, too, during the last century before Christ, described in Aeneid (Virgil, ‘Aeneid,’ trans. James Rhoades, vol. XIII of Great Books of the Western World, ed. R. M. Hutchins, Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc. 1952, book VI), activities of the Sybilline priestess on the Island of Delos. He attributed her ecstatic tongues to the result of her being spiritually unified with the god Apollo, a state that enveloped her while she was meditating in the darkness of a haunted cave, amidst the eerie sounds of the wind playing strange music through the narrow crevices in the rocks.
“In speaking of the Pythoness of Delphi, Chrysostom, the highly acclaimed church father wrote, ‘This same Pythoness then, is said, being a female, to sit at times upon the tripod of Apollo astride, and thus the evil spirit ascending from beneath and entering the lower part of her body, fills the woman with madness, and she with disheveled hair, begins to play the bacchanal and to foam at the mouth, and thus being in a frenzy to utter the words of her madness.’-Chrysostom, ‘Homilies on the First Corinthians,’ trans. T. W. Chambers, in The Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, ed. Philip Schaff (New York: The Christian Literature Company, 1889) vol. 12, p. 170. (Italics supplied)” Charisma of the Spirit, Rene Noorbergen, Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1973.
From both the Bible, and from history can be seen the evidence of a false ecstatic utterance. These ecstatic utterances were known nearly one thousand years before Pentecost, in the Pagan cultures of the world. The Bible affirms that these instance are demons speaking through humans. Surely there is need of being careful and not attributing every supernatural manifestation to God, for the devil has power to do this, too.
Test the Spirits
There are some that suppose, if there is a supernatural manifestation, then it must be from God. This is actually one of the most dangerous views to hold, for it opens up the mind to the manifold deceptions of the devil. It has already been clearly seen that there have been, in past times, supernatural manifestations among heathen religions, and that demons can speak through human beings. With these instances from history and God’s Word, undoubtedly, the forces of evil can work supernatural manifestations. For this reason, the Bible gives us very clear warnings. “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” I John 4:1. “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons,” I Timothy 4:1. If we believe that every spiritualistic manifestation is from God, we will inevitably be deceived. The most solemn warnings are given that there are many false prophets and, for that reason, we cannot believe every spiritualistic manifestation. Not only that, but this is a warning specifically directed to our time, because Paul tells us that in the “latter times” some are going to listen to these “deceiving spirits” and to the “doctrines of demons.” Clearly, we must test every supernatural manifestation. Just because an event, or an occurrence, such as ecstatic utterances, takes place, does not mean that it is from God. The devil has the ability to counterfeit the gift of tongues with these ecstatic utterances, just as he has done in numerous Pagan cultures for thousands of years. If we believe every supernatural occurrence, we will be deceived. We must test the spirits, especially in the last days in which we live. The question is, how do we test spiritualistic manifestations?
As I have talked with some individuals regarding spiritual gifts, I have found that the most frequently used test, is the test the Bible specifically says not to use. When I have questioned individuals how they know the gift they are believing in is true, the only answer that can be given is that they just feel that this is true and right. Feeling, is the very last factor in determining whether a supernatural manifestation is from God or not. The devil can, and is, playing upon the vacillating emotions of millions of sincere, but deceived people today. “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore, it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.” II Corinthians 11:13-15. We cannot go by feelings! The devil himself can so disguise himself as to appear as a glorious angel of light. The devil’s agents can appear to be ministers of righteousness. The absolute last test to use is the test of feelings.
While talking to other individuals, I have noticed another test that is frequently used. They have substantiated their claim, that what they were doing was from God, because of all miracles and healings that had happened. Once again, we must investigate from the Bible to see whether this is a valid test to use. “The coming of the lawless one is according to the workings of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth that they might be saved.” II Thessalonians 2:9-10. We are specifically told that the anti-christ works after Satan’s methods with miracles, signs, etc. Certainly it is not safe to trust in miracles. God, too, has the power to perform miracles, but this cannot be used as a test whether a movement, or spiritualistic manifestation, is from God. In fact, we are repeatedly warned that the devil will work, especially through miracles in the last days, “He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men.” “For they are the spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.” “The beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast, alive, into the lake of fire burning with brimstone.” Revelation 13:13; 16:14; 19:20. Obviously, the devil will work miracles, signs, and wonders in the last days; and just because a movement has miracles, does not mean that it is from God.
What are some tests that we are to use in spiritualistic manifestations? The most prominent of the What are some tests that we are to use in spiritualistic manifestations? The most prominent of the tests is found in Isaiah 8:19, 20. “And when they say to you, ‘Seek those who are mediums and wizards, who whisper and mutter,’ should not a people seek their God? Should they seek the dead on behalf of the living? To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” The most unequivocal statement is made that if the law and the testimony are not adhered to, we are not to listen to them. God’s Spirit will always work and teach in accordance with His Law. The Law is the foundation of God’s government. It is a transcript of His character, and God has declared that He will not alter it. (Psalms 89:34; Luke 16:17.) If a spiritualistic manifestation is not teaching according to God’s Ten Commandment Law and the rest of Bible, there is no light in it. The Scripture does not say, very little light; it says NO light. It doesn’t matter how good it may feel, it doesn’t matter how good it may look, it doesn’t matter how high the profession is if God’s Law is not being upheld, there is absolutely no light in it. It is a false, spiritualistic manifestation from the devil. It cannot be trusted. This test, alone, exposes the fallacy of hundreds of spiritualistic manifestations; but there are more tests as well.
“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, Who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” Ephesians 4:4-6. God has only one Spirit. He does not have multiple spirits. There is only one Spirit, one body, one faith, one baptism, one God. There is only one true God, and he does not have multiple truths; He only has one truth. Because He does not have multiple truths, He does not have multiple bodies. Because He does not have multiple bodies, He does not have multiple faiths and baptisms. Because He does not have multiple faiths, creeds, etc., He does not need multiple Spirits. There is only one Spirit that is going to lead into one truth. Anything more than this would be confusion. God has one true Spirit, who works through one body and faith.
The devil has many counterfeit spirits that bridge all faiths and creeds, because all that he is concerned about is deceiving the most people possible. If a spiritualistic manifestation is a true manifestation from God, it will only acknowledge one faith, etc., not multiple, conflicting creeds.
God’s Spirit was given for a very specific purpose. The most important work of the Holy Spirit is not to manifest itself in the gift of tongues, as many people claim today. One of the most important functions of the Holy Spirit is to lead God’s people into all truth. “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.” John 16:13. Jesus tells us that when the Comforter comes, He will guide us into all truth. The job and function of the Holy Spirit is to guide God’s people into the truths of God’s Word. This is such a major part of the Holy Spirit’s work, He is called the “Spirit of Truth.” John 14:17; 15:26. If there is a spiritualistic manifestation, it will be for the purpose of leading and guiding God’s people into all truth. God gives the gift of prophecy to guide His people into truth. God gives the gifts of pastors, evangelists, apostles, etc. to teach His people the truth. God gives the gift of tongues to be able to communicate the truth with those who would not be able to otherwise understand.
Applying the Tests
Does the modern day tongue-speaking movement match these tests laid down in God’s Word nearly two thousand years ago? Does the modern day tongue-speaking movement use feelings and miracles as a test of its validity? Does the modern tongue-speaking movement teach people to live according to all of God’s Law? Does the modern tongue-speaking movement lead into one body and one faith? Are the modern spiritualistic manifestations of the tongue-speaking movement leading God’s people into the truths of the Word of God?
Does the tongue-speaking movement of today lead people to keep all of God’s Law? The Law is taught and upheld for the most part, but is all of it taught and upheld? “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” James 2:10. It is not enough to teach and live by most of the Law, it must be all of the Law, for if we break one of the commandments, we are guilty of all.
I was driving by a large tongue-speaking church one day, and saw a most interesting saying on the announcement board. It said, “The Ten Commandments are not multiple choice.” I thought that this was a very good saying, and very true, but even though this slogan was on their announcement board, they were not living by it. There is one commandment that nearly all in the tongue-speaking movement are breaking; the fourth commandment. The Bible says, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God:” Exodus 20:8-10. Right in the heart of God’s Law it says that we are to work for six days, but then we are to keep the seventh day (or Saturday, see Webster’s Dictionary) holy. Almost every tongue-speaking church does not obey this commandment. Most may claim to teach and keep all of the other nine, but the Bible says if we break one, we are guilty of all. Thus, even though there may be a claim to keep the Law; it is only a claim, for the Bible says that if we break one, we are guilty of all. (For more detail on the subject of the Sabbath day see the book, The National Sunday Law, available from Steps to Life.) “And when they shall say unto you, ‘Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter:’ should not a people seek unto their God? For the living to the dead? To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” Isaiah 8:19, 20. If there is a spiritualistic manifestation that does not teach according to God’s law, there is no light. It is even talking about speech. In verse 19, it says, “the wizards that peep and that mutter.” Perhaps these wizards were speaking with ecstatic utterances and claimed it to be the gift of tongues, but the Bible is very clear upon such manifestations. If God’s Law (all of it) is not being kept, there is absolutely no light whatsoever. God’s Spirit will always lead to obedience to all of the Law. It is the “spirits of demons” (Revelation 16:14) that teach that it is all right to break some, or one part, of the Law. God’s true Spirit always leads to obedience.
In fact, God’s true Spirit is only given to those who are obedient to begin with. Jesus has never In fact, God’s true Spirit is only given to those who are obedient to begin with. Jesus has never promised to give His Spirit to anyone who is disobeying God’s Law. “If ye love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him: but ye know Him: for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” John 14:15-17. Jesus tells us, if we keep His commandments, He will send the Comforter. If we are not keeping all of His commandments, there is no promise that we will receive the Holy Spirit. God can only entrust His Spirit to those who are faithfully keeping His commandments. This most precious gift of God’s spirit can only be given to those who can be trusted, and God can only trust those who are living in obedience to all of His commandments. “And we are His witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey Him.” Acts 5:32.
God, through the ages, has not been able to fully impart His Spirit on those who are not living in obedience to Him. The gift of prophecy, or the true gift of tongues, was not given to the Reformers such as Luther, Melancthon, Calvin, Zwingle, or Wesley. These were all great men. They were used by God, but God was leading them out of the Dark Ages, step by step, and he could not reveal all of the light to them immediately. They did not have the light on the Sabbath of the fourth commandment, as we have today, and so they were not accountable for what they did not know. Even though they were living up to all the light they had, God could not give them fully of His Spirit, because they were, unknowingly, disobeying one of His commandments. It is the same way today. God does not pour His Spirit upon those who are breaking one, or all, of the commandments. The modern day tongue-speaking movement does not match up to these tests given in God’s word. It claims to have the gifts of the Spirit, but God’s Word says that is impossible. The modern movement does not live in full obedience to God’s Law, and thus it cannot have a true manifestation of the gift of tongues.
Another test that needs to be applied to determine whether the spirit is from God, is found in Ephesians 4:4, 5, “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism.” There is only one true Spirit and one true body, or church. (Ephesians 1:22, 23.) There are not multiple spirits acceptable to God, and there are not multiple bodies. There are not multiple baptisms. Does the modern tongue-speaking movement ascribe to one body, one baptism, and one faith? Absolutely not. According to some sources, there are over 15,000 different denominations. Does this match with the Scriptural injunction of one body? Of course not. Does the modern day tongue-speaking movement have one faith? Quite the contrary. The charismatic movement has bridged nearly all major denominations. Catholics, Baptists, Episcopals, Methodists, and many others, all have associations with the tongue-speaking movement. The charismatic movement has infiltrated over one hundred and fifty of the major Protestant denominations. Do these all agree in doctrine and faith? Absolutely not. If all these bodies were agreed, they would become one body, but there are divisions on nearly every point of belief. Some believe that justification is based upon something that we have to do, others strongly promote that we can be justified by faith alone. Some believe that the Bible is our only rule of faith and doctrine, others believe that the church is above the Bible. Despite all the differences that exist, these same spiritualistic manifestations are seen among all of them.
The Bible says that there is “one baptism.” Once again, in the different bodies where this spiritualistic manifestation is found, there are many different modes of baptism. Some believe in baptism by immersion, some believe in baptism by pouring, others practice baptism by sprinkling. Some believe in baptizing in the name of Jesus, others baptize in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, while still others immerse three times. Yet, even though there are all of these different methods of baptism, the same spirit is manifested among each. Each group claims to have the true gift of the spirit, but the Bible says there is only one spirit and baptism. This spirit is manifested regardless of what a group believes or practices. It does not match with the Bible test. A spirit that disregards all doctrinal differences, faiths, and baptism, cannot be the true spirit. “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, Who is above, and through all, and in you all.” Ephesians 4:4-6. God’s one true Spirit will only acknowledge one true faith and one true baptism. The modern day tongue-speaking movement does not match this test, either.
Tongues Throughout the Bible
There are only three places in the whole Bible where the gift of tongues is recorded as being given. (Acts 2:1-11; 10:44-48; 19:1-7.) It would be well to study and look at all three instances in order to understand the true gift of tongues, as recorded in the Bible.
The first of the three instances, was on the day of Pentecost. As we previously looked at this instance, we shall just briefly review it. This is the instance that sets the precedent for all the other times when the gift of tongues was given. “Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language…. And how hear we every man in our own tongue wherein we were born? Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our own tongues, the wonderful works of God.” Acts 2:6, 8, 11.
The disciples were miraculously given the ability to speak in other languages, but not just babbling gibberish. They were given the ability to speak the language of those to whom they were ministering. A remarkable miracle indeed. There were thousands of people gathered at Jerusalem at this time, speaking many different languages. The Lord desired that the gospel would rapidly go to many different countries, in a most miraculous manner. The gift of tongues was given as a sign to unbelievers, given to spread the gospel rapidly. It was not given to edify the believers, to grant them a special feeling, or as unintelligible utterances. It was a gift that enabled them to speak in the languages of their hearers.
The next instance, when the gift of tongues was given, is found in Acts 10:44-48. “While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they, of the circumcision, which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, ‘Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?’ And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.” There was very strong prejudice among the Christians toward the Gentiles. They felt that the Jews were the favored people of God, and that it was to the Jews alone that the gospel was to go. God, however, had other plans. He had to teach them this in a most marked manner. The manner that He chose, was to pour the Holy Spirit upon the Gentiles, as well as the Jews. Peter was divinely instructed to go to the house of Cornelius, and as he was speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon them all. Were these ecstatic utterances given to bring an emotional experience? Quite the contrary. The Jews “heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God.” (vs. 47) The Jews heard and understood, or they would not have known that they were magnifying God. Peter leaves no room for doubt as to what kind of manifestation this was. “And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning,&Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift, as He did unto us,” “And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as He did unto us;” Acts 11:15, 17; 15:8. Peter, explaining to the other apostles and brethren, says that “the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning.” (vs. 15) How did it fall upon the apostles at the beginning? Was it an ecstatic, unknown utterance at the beginning? No, it was known languages, spoken to those who understood those languages. How was it then at this instance? It was just like at the beginning; known discernable languages, understood by the listeners.
There were at least two different nationalities represented here and thus, two different languages, as well. There were the Jews, the Italians, and perhaps others. “There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band,” Acts 10:1. This second instance gives no grounds for the ecstatic utterances that we see today. It was the Biblical gift of the ability to speak other languages.
The last instance of the gift of tongues is found in Acts 19:1-7. “And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul, having passed through the upper coasts, came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples, He said unto them, ‘Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?’ And they said unto him, ‘We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.’ And he said unto them, ‘Unto what then, were ye baptized?’ And they said, ‘Unto John’s baptism.’ Then said Paul, ‘John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on Him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.’ When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord, Jesus Christ. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy ghost came on them; and they spake with other tongues and prophesied. And all the men were about twelve.” The final occurrence of the gift of tongues is here illustrating the importance of re-baptism. The Lord gives His approval upon re-baptism by pouring out His Spirit, and giving the gift of tongues. This is the third time that Luke records this event, and he does not elaborate on what the event was like, because he had already elaborated at length two other times. There is nothing in the passage, though, to indicate that it is the ecstatic utterances that are claimed to be tongues today. Instead, the opposite is indicated. It says, “they spake with other tongues.” The very fact that Luke records it as being other tongues, is a clue that it is talking about other known languages, for that is always what tongues means in this context.
Having looked at every occurrence of the gift of tongues in the Bible, the only conclusion to which we can come, is that tongue-speaking is the miraculous gift of being able to speak another known language to people with whom we would otherwise be unable to communicate. The popular manifestation of ecstatic utterances are nowhere found in the Bible, except in demon-possessed men.
There are isolated instances when God has given the true gift of tongues to people today, as well. There is one instance when a man, a missionary to Africa, was pioneering a work among the people and was holding evangelistic meetings. A large crowd had gathered to listen to what the white missionary had to say. He had previously arranged for a translator to assist him. He waited and waited, but the translator did not show up. As it was getting late, the missionary claimed the promises of God’s Word, and went up to the platform to speak. As he began to pray, he realized that he was speaking the language of the people, which he had never studied before, and had hardly even heard. He could understand perfectly what he was saying, and so could everyone else, because God had given him the gift of tongues. He went on with his meetings without a translator, and ever afterward, he knew the language of the African tribe. This is the true gift of tongues. It is not an emotional high. It is a gift given to communicate with those who do not know the gospel. The Lord is still working today, just as He worked at Pentecost, just not in the way that most people think.
There are many sincere and honest Christians who have spoken in the ecstatic utterances of today. Many of these dear people do not know that this is not the true gift, as spoken of in the Bible. They truly love the Lord and have thought that this is what God desired. God condemns no man for his honest ignorance. Man is judged by the light that he has received and by the use he has made of that light. The Lord, in His love, allows correction and instruction to come, because He loves His dear people. (See Revelation 3:19.)
The modern ecstatic utterances are actually very far from harmless. It is very dangerous to submit ourselves to the working of a spirit that is not from God. As I was teaching upon this very subject in Ghana, Africa, I received some very interesting feedback from the group of people with whom I was studying. One man told of an experience that he had with a tongue-speaking church. He and a German friend were standing outside of a church where the members were speaking with ecstatic utterances. The dear people inside the church thought that they were praising and worshipping God. They thought that they were filled with the Holy Spirit and that they had received the true gift of tongues. As the men standing outside visited with each other, the German friend suddenly became very intent on what was going on inside the church. He listened very carefully to what was being said by those who thought that they were praising God with the gift of tongues. He understood what they were saying, because they were speaking in German. None of those inside the church knew German, and they all thought that they were speaking in the “language of heaven.” They all thought that they were praising God. Unfortunately, they were not praising or glorifying God. Unbeknownst to them, they were saying, “All the big witches stand up and all the little witches sit down.”
If this were the true gift of tongues would God be communicating to them about witches? Would God inspire people to think that they were praising God, while calling one another witches? No. Even though these people thought that they were praising God, they were doing the opposite. They had good intentions, but the sad fact was, they were speaking through the spirits of demons and not through the Spirit of God. The devil can speak through people today, just as he spoke through people two thousand years ago, when Jesus was here on the earth. The devil is deceiving people today, just as he did then, and it is no less dangerous.
I Corinthians 14
No study on the gift of tongues would be complete without looking at the chapter so frequently used to substantiate what is taught nowhere else in the Bible. It is urged that the chapter of I Corinthians 14 teaches these ecstatic utterances so prevalent today. With these beliefs, it is important to study and understand this controversial chapter.
It is thought that the Corinthian church is a model for what other tongue-speaking churches should be. It would be well to look and see what Paul said about this Corinthian church. Paul says that they are carnal and that there is strife, envying and divisions among them. (See I Corinthians 3:1-3.) There was such a severe case of fornication among them, that it was even shocking to the Gentiles. (See I Corinthians 5.3.) Brothers were going to the law and suing one another. Paul severely rebuked them for this. (See I Corinthians 6:5-7.) They were doing wrong and defrauding their brethren. (See I Corinthians 6:8.) Their women were not dressing as they should, instead they were dressing like harlots. (See I Corinthians 11:1-16.) There were heresies among them. (See I Corinthians 11:19.) They were defiling the Lord’s supper, and for this cause some of them had died. (See I Corinthians 11:20-22, 29, 30.) There was confusion and disorder in the church. (See I Corinthians 14:33-40.) There were false apostles and ministers among them. (See II Corinthians 11:13-15.) “For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall find you such as I would, and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not: lest there be debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults: and lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed.” II Corinthians 12:20, 21. “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.” II Corinthians 11:3, 4.
Paul made many statements that were far from being complimentary regarding the Corinthian church. Certainly, it is not a church to model after, but a church that was in need of very strong rebukes. The climax being, that Paul was afraid that they would receive another gospel and another Jesus, or even that they might receive another spirit. So, far from being an example of a church that was filled with the Spirit, they were a church that was in grave danger of receiving a counterfeit, false spirit. There can be no room for questions. This was a church in very poor spiritual condition.
In order to understand the fourteenth chapter, it is essential to look at it in the context of chapters twelve and thirteen also. In the twelfth chapter, Paul enumerates largely upon spiritual gifts. Far from teaching that everyone must receive the gift of tongues, he states quite the opposite. “For to one is given by the Spirit, the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: but all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as He will.” I Corinthians 12:8-11. It is clearly stated that one receives knowledge, another receives miracles, another tongues, but every man does not receive every gift. Every man does not even choose which gift he receives. It is the Spirit that gives to every man as He (the Spirit) chooses. God knows exactly what gift we need, and that is the one that He gives to us. He does not leave it up to us to decide which gift we need. As God is the one who gives the gift, God is the one who decides which gift we receive. There are those that say that everyone must receive the gift of tongues, but this is NOT what God’s Word says. God’s Word says that everyone will receive a gift, but that there are, “diversities of gifts.” (See I Corinthians 12:4.) The church is referred to as a body and the members of the church as members of the body. (See I Corinthians 12:14-24.) A body would be totally dysfunctional, if there were only one body part. Imagine, if the only body part we had was the tongue! How absurd! The body could not see, could not walk, could not feel, could not hear, could not do anything, but incessantly babble away. Would God form such a body? Of course not. Neither would God form such a church. A church, solely with the gift of tongues, would be a useless church, but this is the kind of church that many people desire. God’s Word does not approve. To say that everyone will receive the gift of tongues, is flagrantly contradicting the Bible.
Although it is claimed that the gift of tongues is the most important spiritual gift, you will find, by comparing scripture with scripture, that is just not the case. “And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.” I Corinthians 12:28-31. Paul tells us that the first gift is apostles, second, prophets, and so on. In fact, tongues is the absolute last. So, far from being the most important of all spiritual gifts, tongues is the least important of all the gifts. Then Paul says to covet earnestly the best gifts. Is it tongues that we are to covet? Clearly not. The gift that people are earnestly desiring today, is the gift that Paul said was the least important, and the one that we are not to covet. It is all the more important gifts that we are to desire–apostleship, prophesy, etc., but not tongues. The gift of tongues is regarded so low in the list of spiritual gifts, that in the other places where a numerical listing of the gifts are given, tongues is not even mentioned. (See Ephesians 4:11; I Corinthians 12:8-10.) To say that all must receive the gift of tongues, is simply not Biblical, and to say that tongues is the most important of the gifts is, likewise, doing injustice to the Word of God.
Looking at the fourteenth chapter, Paul is rebuking the Corinthian church for their abuse of the gift of tongues. To then take this chapter, which is designed to correct the inappropriate use of the gift of tongues, and base our practice upon it, is simply not consistent. Paul repeatedly urges to “let all things be done decently and in order.” I Corinthians 14:40. Apparently, things were not being done in an orderly fashion, and Paul is striving to get them done that way. Prophesy is clearly more desirable than the gift of tongues, for he says, “follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.” I Corinthians 14:1. Paul is not teaching that it is appropriate to have these unintelligible ecstatic utterances that are in our world today, for he says, “And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they have a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped? For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? So likewise ye, except ye utter, by the tongue, words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? For ye shall speak into the air.” I Corinthians 14:7-9.
If what we are saying is not understood by the congregation, we are speaking to the air, and we might as well not even be talking. “Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh, barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me.” I Corinthians 14:11. It does absolutely no good for us to speak with one another, if we don’t know each other’s language.
I have been in the situation many times where I did not know another person’s language, and they did not know mine. You are, in reality, speaking to the air. You are simply wasting your breath. I have also sat in church, many times, without a clue as to what the speaker was saying, for it was in a totally different language. I have had occasion to think of Paul’s statements here and realize how true they are. “Yet in the church, I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.” I Corinthians 14:19.
How much clearer could it be? There is no value in speaking without you, or the congregation, understanding what you are saying. The entire point of speaking is teaching. Unknown babbling does not accomplish this. It is also important to note, that the word unknown is a supplied word. You will notice that it is in italics. That means that it was put in by the translators. There is absolutely no reference to it in the original Greek. It simply says that he would rather speak five words that he and the audience understood, than ten thousand words in a tongue or another language.
Another important point to remember, is that the gift of tongues is not for church members. The gift of tongues is given as a sign for unbelievers. “Wherefore, tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe.” I Corinthians 14:22.
It would be easy to go on and on, looking at points that disprove the modern tongue-speaking movement, but we have looked at enough to clearly see that Paul is rebuking and chastising the believers for their misuse of tongues. He is not teaching that this is something we should desire. He is not teaching that we should speak without understanding. He is not advocating this emotional babbling that is permeating our world today. He is correcting an abuse that had become a problem of large degree in the Corinthian church.
Fire From Heaven
We have seen that. although there are thousands of people who fully believe that the modern day ecstatic utterances are the true pentecostal gift of tongues, this is not the Biblical gift of tongues. Just because there are large numbers, does not mean that it is correct. We must test and weigh every belief and doctrine by the unfailing Word of God. Although there may be many sincere people in the tongue-speaking movement, the Lord is calling His true people out.
It has even been prophesied that this would occur shortly before the end. “And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by the sword, and did live.” Revelation 13:13, 14.
The Lord predicted that there was going to be a power that would arise and bring down fire from heaven. These wonders and signs, that this beast would do, would lead the world to receive the mark of the beast. Undoubtedly, this is not from God. What is the fire from heaven? The Holy Spirit has repeatedly been represented by fire throughout the Bible. (See Matthew 3:11; Acts 2:1-4.) In Acts 2, not only was the Holy Spirit represented by fire, but also the gift of tongues. Could there possibly be another revival, a revival based upon a false holy spirit that would lead to the enforcing of the mark of the beast? Could it be, that this great false revival would claim to have the gift of tongues? We are seeing the fulfillment of Bible prophecy today. There is a movement that claims to have the gift of the Spirit, but it does not match any of the Bible tests whatsoever.
Our only safety, in these last days in which we live, is to be firmly grounded in the truth from God’s Word. Every other foundation will fail us. “Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” II Thessalonians 2:9-12.
When the anti-christ is fully revealed, there will be great signs and miracles. If we are relying upon signs and feelings now, we will be deceived at that day. The only way that we can be safe, is to diligently study the Word of God and strive to live by every word. When it conflicts with what we may have previously believed, the real test comes. Do we believe the Word of God or are we going to follow the way that we have always gone. Jesus has foretold the mournful words to those who have followed feeling, instead of the Word of God. “Not every one that saith to me , ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy Name? And in Thy Name have cast out devils? And in Thy Name done many wonderful works?’ And then will I profess unto them, ‘I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity.'” Matthew 7:21-23. There are going to be many who have prophesied, many who have cast out devils, many who have done miracles, many who have claimed to speak in tongues, but Jesus says, ‘I never knew you.’ We must be following our Father’s will and keeping His commandments. (See John 14:15, 21; 15:10.)
The tongue-speaking movement of today does not do this. God’s call to those inside this movement, and all other movements which are breaking God’s law, is found in Revelation 18:4. “And I heard another voice from heaven saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.” Will you heed the call?
All emphasis the authors unless otherwise stated.
All texts from the King James Version unless otherwise noted.
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