...Beware of Those Tongue Talkers!?!
...BEWARE OF THOSE TONGUE TALKERS
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 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 2:1-3 NKJV
Tongues. Tongues, Tongues...
Can there be any more controversial subject in the Body of Christ?
I want to ask a favor from everyone reading. I know this will be difficult, but will you please try to put what you have heard about this subject out of your mind for a few moments? I know that just about every denomination, including non-denominationalists, read this site, and I know that it is difficult to overcome what has previously been taught to us from respected authorities, whether parents, teachers, or even preachers. But I again need to say that the truth is not bound up in what people say; truth is what God has said in the Bible. We must have this precept before going any further.
So what is this thing called tongues?
AKA (Also Known As): Speaking in Tongues
AKA: The Evidence of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit
AKA: Praying in the Holy Spirit
AKA: Praying in Unknown Languages
AKA: Heavenly Language
AKA: Kind of weird.
It's time for the church to be honest and real. Let's face it, this is one of those topics that people shy away from just because of how it sounds (and looks). I think this is due in part to all the crazies on ministry television, partly because people are afraid of it, and partly because it truly is sort of weird. In fact, I don't know anyone who has experienced tongues directly or indirectly who didn't think it was a little weird at first.
There are many Christian churches that believe tongues is a doctrine straight from the innermost caverns of hell. Others teach that it is a direct blessing from heaven, and still others that have absolutely no clue what to think. At one point, I was in that last category. What side of the fence are you on? Or maybe you have never thought about it. There are several 21st Century churches that don't even draw up statements of faith that would potentially include or dismiss this doctrine. When it comes to doctrines that might keep people out of the church doors they remain rather silent, as to not offend. They either don't know what to believe, they believe it all, or they don't want to say what they believe because of some hidden agenda. Whatever the case may be, I think it is safe to say that regardless of whether or not a church publicly posts their belief about tongues, one thing is for certain: it is not being openly preached about on Sunday morning. But why? When is the last time you heard this preached? (and, no, I'm not putting down any church or pastor for their lack of preaching about this issue.)
I can tell you the first time I was indirectly ridiculed for attending a full-gospel, tongue-speaking, church. I had invited a friend from high school to my church, and a few minutes into the service a woman started belting out unintelligible words in tongues. I tried to get up and take one of those coveted bathroom breaks, but it was no use. It was an awkward moment as I felt my friend glaring at me, waiting silently for a much-needed explanation to this strange phenomenon. I could feel his eyes burning into the side of my face until I had no other alternative but to entertain his enthusiastic question.
"WHAT THE HE[CK] IS THAT?" he asked.
Of course, being the on-fire teenager that I was (not even close) I had come up with some lame concoction to what was happening. But for some reason he didn't buy the idea that this lady was spouting off praises to the Lord in a language that was a mixture of Russian, Arabic, and Swahili. That didn't work, so I put the ball back in his court by asking: "So, you guys don't do that at your church?' He was Catholic...and after that night he pretty much thought that my parents and I belonged to some strange, David Koresh-like, cult.
But aside from my experiential stories, what is this thing called "Tongues"?
Is tongues for real? Aside from reading Charismatic books with more stories that anyone could make up for a profit, and aside from my personal stories of receiving this language for the first time, is tongues for real, or did it merely cease after the formation of the early church? What does the Bible say? Did other believers throughout history share about these experiences...or did it just pass away with the early disciples?
I think a lot of people really want to know. I have heard this question come up more times than I can count.
Now, please understand that this writing is not to be compared with any technical investigation on the matter. There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of articles that have been published online that will delve into the Greek and expound upon the hermeneutical, exegetical, and theological concepts within this doctrine; that is not my goal in this particular writing. Although I have written about it extensively in the past, I only want to provide some practical, common sense, ideas about the issue. If you are interested in a more exegetical type of writing, you may want to simply enter the word "tongues" in an internet search engine. You will find all you're looking for and more.
Here is a fact about tongues: with the exception of only very few, a vast majority of pastor-producing seminaries teach that "tongues" ceased shortly after the formation of the early church.
Yes, the majority of religious institutions responsible for educating and training the clergy with information to enter the pulpit teach that tongues are no longer a valid part of the Church. Furthermore, they go as far as to say that this doctrine is a counterfeit produced by the devil. That's probably why they don't preach it on Sunday, unless, of course, it's in a negative sense.
But are they right? And besides, I thought that in order for there to be a counterfeit there had to be a real. But, what do I know? I don't have a Ph. D. in the Philosophy of Homiletics (the art of preaching), so I guess I'll leave that to the "professionals."
But momma said theys tongues fo real!
So, who is right about tongues (and miracles and healings)? Do we believe the majority voice in these religious institutions?
I have a tendency to go against popular opinion. I have a tendency to say,"show me." I guess I should have been raised in Missouri, because I research everything. EVERYTHING. I don't trust the media. I don't trust politicians. I don't trust educators. And, yes, I don't trust everything the church promulgates either. I trust my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, God Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and what He has said in His Word, the Bible. I do not put my trust and confidence in the wisdom of men, that much is sure.
Let me pose a profound question? What language does God speak? Think about it logically.
Is it English?
But doesn't that leave out the Spanish, German, Russian, French, etc.
Oh, He speaks Hebrew, does He? Then He was mute for hundreds of years until Hebrew was restored as a language in the mid-1900s? (which, by the way, was a fulfilled prophecy-Zephaniah 3:9)
No, really, what language does God speak? God is no respecter of persons, so He cannot just speak one language. He speaks them all. Without getting too weird, it may be safe to say that tongues is the language of God, or the language of heaven. We know that God has other personified features: hands, face, eyes, etc.--so why wouldn't He have a tongue?
Let me say it this way: Tongues, like God, cannot be measured in a past, present or future. Tongues, like God, cannot cease. God is not linear. God is circular. Let me explain it like C.S. Lewis. Mr. Lewis said that if a straight line existed on a piece of paper that that would represent our lives on earth. But the whole of the paper would represent God, assuming that nothing else existed beyond the paper itself. In other words, God had no beginning and He has no end. A line has a starting and stopping point. A circle is never ending but keeps on going. The men that say that tongues have ceased are obviously referring to the human side of the matter. It is more or less a far-fetched concept to them. I really don't think they have thought this through. Tongues is not simply a concept or even just a doctrine. Simply speaking, and so much less than an adequate definition, tongues is the language of God. If God doesn't stop, then tongues haven't stopped either.
I grew up in a church where the pastor had a very funny saying. He would tell everyone that if they wanted to speak in tongues that they should say, "Tie my bow tie, re-tie my bow tie" several times real fast. Now, of course, he was joking, but it did make sense in a strange way. I like to use this one: tongues are simply reciting the names of foreign automobile manufacturers real fast. Honda, Hyundai, Mitsubishi, Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, Hyundai, Honda. All joking aside, this thing about tongues is really quite interesting. Instead of making a case against the Bible with the Bible, maybe we should employ some extra-biblical support. After all, critics already blame Christians of using circular reasoning (using the Bible to support the Bible). Is there any evidence that tongues did not cease around AD 70, as many of its critics has suggested? I think you'll like this:
(Oh, and by the way, the passage that the "great thinking theologians" use in support of their theory that tongues have ceased, comes from the book of I Corinthians 13 where Paul speaks about everything being absolutely minimal compared to love. In context, Paul is referring to heaven when we will see Christ face to face, and where knowledge and the giftings of the Holy Spirit meant for earth would no longer be necessary. Again it is not explicit, which is why there are various interpretations on the text. If, however, the proper rules of hermeneutics (studying the Bible) are applied there is no way that someone could say with any amount of certainty that tongues indeed ceased, especially by using Scripture to support it.)
I [Paul] speak in tongues more than you all... (I. Cor. 14:18). Did Tongues cease during Paul's day?
Justin Martyr (100-165 AD) In his own writing, Dialogue with Trypho, states: "...prophetical gifts remain with us even now to the present time." Did tongues cease at this time?
Irenaeus (125-200 AD) In a work entitled, Against Heresies, says: "For some do certainly and truly drive out devils, so that those who have been thus cleansed from evil spirits frequently believe [in Jesus Christ for salvation], and join themselves to the Church. Others have foreknowledge of things to come: they see visions and utter prophetic expressions. Others still heal the sick by laying hands upon them, and they are made well." Did tongues cease during Irenaeus' day?
Tertullian (160-240 AD) In A Treatise on the Soul, says: "For seeing that we acknowledge the spiritual charismata, or gifts, we too have merited the attainment of the prophetic gift." Did tongues cease at this time?
Origen (185-284 AD) In his writing, Against Celsus, Origen says: "...for by these means we too have seen many persons freed from grievous calamities,...and countless other ills, which could not be cured neither by men nor devils...to these promises are added strange, fanatical and quite unintelligible words, of which no rational person can find the meaning." How about here?
Pachomius (292-346 AD) An ancient writer describes Pachomius with the ability to speak in a language that he had not learned. Tongues ceasing anyone?
Ambrose (397 AD) In his theological work, entitled, Of the Holy Spirit, says:"...the Father gives the gift of tongues, so too has the Son also granted it. In like manner we have heard also above concerning the Holy Spirit that He too grants the same kinds of graces." Please keep in mind that the church at this point is almost 400 years old and that the original disciples passed on about 250-300 years previous.
Augustine (354-430 AD) Augustine actually made derogatory remarks against miracles early on in his writings. But later in life he began to see miracles taking place before his very eyes. In one writing he even describes what some Charismatics might call, Singing in Tongues: "And for whom is such jubilation fitting if not for the ineffable God? For he is ineffable whom one cannot express in words; and if you cannot express him in words, and yet you cannot remain silent either, then what is left but to sing in jubilation, so that your heart may rejoice without words, and your unbounded joy may not be confined to the limits of syllables."
Hildegard of Bingen (1098 AD) Apparently Hildegard was ridiculed for praying to the Lord for miracles and healings for individuals. According to referenced works, Hildegard also spoke and sang in tongues. Because of the great miracles that seemed to surround the life of Hildegard, and because many did not understand them, some actually said that it was the work of demons. Hildegard was actually defended by Bernard of Clairvaux, who encouraged a visit to Pope Eugenius III. In 1148, Pope Eugenius personally investigated the matter and said that the miracles should continue through Hildegard.
St. Stephen (1396 AD) St. Stephen on a mission to Georgia, is reported to have spoken in the tongues of the natives of the land in their own language-a language he had never learned before. Purportedly, St. Colette also spoke in tongues.
Martin Luther (1346-1546 AD) Martin Luther's own hymn states that, "The Spirit and gifts are ours." In Souer's collection, A History of the Christian Church, he describes Martin Luther as: "a prophet, evangelist, speaker in tongues and interpreter, in one person, endowed with all the gifts of the Spirit."
The Quakers (c. 1650) Edward Burroughs, a personal friend to George Fox, and an early Quaker, describes their charimata experience: "We received the pouring down of the Holy Spirit upon us, and the gift of God's Holy eternal Spirit as in the days of old, and our hearts were made glad, and our tongues loosed, and our mouths opened, and we spoke with new tongues, as the Lord gave us utterance, and as His Spirit led us, which was poured down upon us, on sons and daughters."
The Moravians (c. 1730) It is reported that the Moravians experienced a revival with speaking in tongues. A critic, John Roche, describes this phenomenon as such: "[the Moravians] commonly broke into...disconnected jargon...which they often passed on as...the exuberant and resistless evacuations of the Spirit."
The Methodists (c. 1751) Thomas Walsh, a personal friend of John Wesley, wrote this in his own journal: "This morning the Lord gave me a language I knew not of, raising my soul to Him in a wonderful manner."
Jonathan Edwards (c. 1750) Speaking in tongues was common during the Great Awakening revival. In a book called, Religious Enthusiasm and the Great Awakening, Mr. Lovejoy says: "These meetings would continue till 10, 11, 12 O'clock at night; ...others made uttering ecstatic expressions..."
D.L. Moody (1837-1899) D.L. Moody, evangelist and co-founder of one of todays most highly sought after Bible training institutions, said that he had an experience of the Holy Spirit subsequent to Salvation: "I was crying all the time that God would fill me with His Spirit. Well, one day, in the city of New York, oh, what a day!-I cannot describe it, I seldom refer to it; it is almost too sacred an experience to name...I went to preaching again. The sermons were not different; I did not present any new truths, and yet hundreds were converted...I would not be placed back where I was before that blessed experience for all the world..."
My church youth group (1995 AD) I first experienced the power of God in an intimate way, and spoke in what many would call a strange language that had the dialect of what sounded like a Sioux American Indian. Let's just put it this way, when Dancing with Wolves came out, I understood everything they were saying without the subtitles. All joking aside, this was a genuine experience, and I had never even heard of the doctrine of Speaking in Tongues before that day. I didn't fully understand it in Bible College. I don't fully understand it now. But what kind of God would we have if we mere mortals could describe every detail of God with superb understanding?
And He [Jesus] said to them, "Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the entire world. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover." Mark 16:15-18 emphasis mine.
What about you? Have you cried out to the Lord that He would take you to a greater walk with Him? Do you want the next level? (And it might not have anything to do with tongues at all.) Are you seeking a fresh illumination of the Spirit of God in your life? Do you believe that God can anoint you with a fresh power (an endowment from on high) like He did for D.L. Moody and these other men and women of faith? Do you have trouble when you witness for the Lord and know that there has to be a greater anointing (power for the occasion) to lead people to Him? His Baptism in the Holy Spirit is available to those who ask for it by faith. More intimate encounters are ahead to those who are walking after Him in faith.
I know that there are genuine, good-hearted believers that want to believe in everything the Bible says that is available for them. I also know that much of what has been taught to them concerning this subject may be holding them back from experiencing this blessing. Like anything else it is a faith issue. Sometimes it is a fear issue. Sometimes confusion is involved. Tongues can be confusing. It was confusing to the early church. But God will not leave you confused if you are seeking for the truth of what is happening. Study the Scriptures that reference the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Pray about it. Seek Christ with all that you have.
And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused... Acts 2:6
But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, "Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words. For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 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 2:15-17 emphasis mine.
As I was finishing this writing, my wife walked through the front door from having attended a prayer meeting at church. When I conveyed to her some of my thoughts about tongues she said that she wanted to share something that happened at the prayer meeting. She said that one of the teenagers came to her and shared a testimony of the first time he spoke in tongues. I thought that was a little ironic because this is the first time this has ever happened at our current church, and it happened on the same evening that I was finishing up this article on tongues.
Apparently, this teenager was invited to a special youth conference not far from Houston with the rest of the youth group. When they showed up to this event the place was, in his own sentiments, "deplorable and stinky." The youth had paid money for this conference and they simply expected more. But something happened that evening. Even amidst these teenagers complaining and bickering, the Holy Spirit fell on that conference. Before this youth could understand what was happening, he described to my wife that almost everyone was weeping and strange words began to spill out of his mouth. At that point he didn't know what was happening. Then he conveyed how it happened to him. He was standing in this youth conference complaining to everyone that he "didn't get his money's worth" when he saw other youth having a new experience with God. It was happening all around him, but it was not happening to him. As he stood at the front near the altar he began to ball up his fist and hit his legs in anger toward the Lord. You see, this youth had been seeking a deeper level with God with all of his might, and when the Spirit fell on the other youth, he was jealous. He wanted to move into a deeper relationship with God, but it just was not happening. He started speaking to God," God why not me? I want more too." As he was speaking in his anger toward the Lord, he felt a mighty power come over him and he began to speak in this unknown language out loud. This was a youth who had no idea what was happening to him. He hadn't been to Bible College. He wasn't in it to promote a new book. It simply happened because he sought the Lord and a more intimate walk with Him.
The Baptism in the Holy Spirit is available to all who ask in faith, not doubting.
Other facts you should know about tongues:
1. No one is any better in the church if they speak in tongues.
2. No one is any worse in the church if they speak in tongues.
3. Speaking in Tongues seems to serve as the initial evidence of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit (Acts 2; Acts 19). However, the Bible does not say this explicitly.
While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, "Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?" Acts 10:44-47 ESV
And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. Acts 19:6 ESV
4. Baptism in the Holy Spirit is to equip and empower the believer in Christ to witness for Him in the Great Commission, and to speak the Good News that Christ has come as the Savior of the world, eradicating our sins on the cross if we put our trust and faith in Him (Acts 1).
5. Tongues are both public and personal (or private to the individual). We will cover the personal aspect first: When you are baptized in the Holy Spirit, you will receive what many have coined as "a personal prayer language to God (Acts 2: Acts 19)." This will enable you to pray, as Paul stated, with your spirit directly to God-spirit to Spirit (I Cor. 14:14; Rom. 8:26; I Cor. 14:1). We can pray in tongues when there is an issue that we may not be familiar with. Sometimes people may come to us with an unknown request, or the request might to too touchy to pray out loud so everyone can understand, but praying in tongues will alleviate this issue. When you pray in tongues only God will understand because this is His language that was given to you for ministry. I once heard about a pastor who had been praying over a woman who apparently had a severe demonic influence in her life. The pastor openly admitted to praying over her for several hours in the church basement. Finally, he became exhausted and the woman was still burdened by the demonic force. Then someone suggested that they should pray in tongues over the woman. When they did, the demon cried out in a loud voice telling them not to pray that way because it was the perfect prayer. You see, just like when Daniel's prayers to God were intercepted, our natural prayers in any earthly language can be as well. But when we pray to God, only He understands. An interesting way to illustrate this is to think about the police K-9's that are trained to apprehend criminals. Did you know that the majority of these German Shepherds are trained only in the German language? When they are assigned to a human partner as a team, they provide the officer with the appropriate wording to get the dog to do what they want. That way a criminal can tell the dog to "sit", "stay", or "roll-over" all night long, but the dog will not even comprehend it if it is not said in the right language. Do you get this concept?
Tongues are also for corporate settings (I Cor. 14:6). It is given to people in the church to edify the Body of Christ and build her up. When this is done, the Holy Spirit comes "upon" the person and anoints them to speak a certain message in an unknown tongue. Then someone will interpret what is said. According to biblical customs, when a person spoke in tongues in public, another person would interpret it. After this, another person would confirm the message by interpreting it again. Sometimes, a third interpreter would confirm the spoken tongue. This was done to ensure authenticity.
For one of the only widely accepted, textbook quality, treatise on Tongues, refer to Renewal Theology: Systematic Theology from a Charismatic Perspective, by J. Rodman Williams. This book is available in most independent Christian bookstores.
Jude 20 NKJV:
But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.
If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized. So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But all things should be done decently and in order.