Tongues Forum

Extracts from email responses to my essay "Tongues of Angels?"


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10 September 2006: Received from James, USA

Hello Brother. I have truly enjoyed this site.

I have been praying in tongues for over 30 years. Never has been indentified as a earthly language. Of course......I have never spoken in a public forum where I felt that it was to be interpreted either.

It has always been to me a time when I simply cannot speak words in english that are sufficient. My understanding and not from a pentacostal or charismatic background that this type was simply a prayer language granted by the Spirit. Paul spoke to the Corinthians about these things quite extentionly.. I Corithians. 13:28 seems to me that if there is no interpretation........it still says to "...speak to himself and to God."

But I think what is more important is the idea that a foreign language would cause confusion.....when they were in a mecca of foreign languages. Something does not hardly fit with all the doctrines on tongues. Perhaps we all are trying to justify something that brings us to a sense of mystery of the Spirit's work through us in those times of prayer when we cannot utter but the Holy Spirit does. Paul indicates this in 13:14-15.

I have yet in 30 years been in a church and never heard someone proclam that the tongues was a earthly language. Heard through the grape vine of those that claim such as someone praying in tongues in a church that was totally against tongues and then a vistor cried out that he understood because it was his mother language and it brought praise to God. Urban Legend who knows.....but perhaps it is true and I would Praise God for it.

My wife begin praying tongues with the out knowledge or being with tongue speakers. My children all claim to speak in tongues and we as their parents never taught them nor have they heard us prayer in tongues. They have not been to churches that teach or use tongues in the service since they were babies. I agree that many tongues center on a few syllables etc. For me, it seems that I am speaking in a language...... I perceive it is not a earthly language. Just some thoughts.

I am in the midst of getting ready to help the chruch I attend do a spiritual gifting teaching......so I am renewing my studies on it that I did years ago when I pastored churches back in the late 70's and mid 80's Would enjoy conversation about this........sorry if my email is jumbled in sentence structure etc.........just wanted to get an email to you while I am at work in my book store.

Blessings in Christ.......James

My Reply

Greetings brother,

I spend a lot of time at Koorong, my favourite christian bookstore, so I appreciate the ministry that you have. I am glad that you have found the site useful. While my essay expresses my own understanding of tongues, the Tongues Forum page is open to all to share their thoughts and experiences. I am happy to post your own testimony, but it will need to wait a few weeks, as I am travelling at the moment. I accept that Paul recognises personal benefits from tongues (1 Cor 14:2,4-5,16-18).

I accept your testimony that tongues can play a role when words in english that are not sufficient. Yet they are only an outward manifestation of an inward work of the Spirit. We read in Romans 8:26-27 that the Spirit groans on our behalf, and "intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will". I have no problem with the use of the word "intercession" in relation to the Spirit conveying our deepest longings, whether conscious or unconscious, to God. It refers to the way in which our needs are taken to God, not the basis on which they are satisfied, who is Christ. Tongues may accompany this intercession, but they are not essential to it. Everyone in whom the Spirit of God lives can speak to God directly from their heart, but not every believer speaks in tongues. As you know, Paul asks the question "Do all speak in tongues?" (1 Cor 12:29), and the answer is plainly understood to be no. I am familiar with the claim by traditional pentecostal denominations that there are two gifts of tongues, a public one which they say Paul is referring to here, and a private one which they say is for all believers. I reject such an argument as an artificial construction which does violence to the text. Tongues are one of nine gifts Paul refers to. The gifts are for the church and distributed as God pleases.

Much has been written about tongues as a private prayer language and I felt no need to add to that. I think this aspect of the gift has been over-emphasised at the expense of its significance as a miraculous sign. I wonder whether its portrayal as angelic or heavenly language, rather than the earthly langauges of people groups who now are able to share in Christ, can provide a convenient cover for gifts that are not genuine.

Pentecostals are well known for their preaching from the Book of Acts. However, the book provides no evidence for tongues as an angelic language. The Pentecost manifestation is the first and only detailed desciption fo the gift in the bible. It should be our model. It clearly describes earthly, not angelic tongues, and the theological significance is easy to see. The sign indicates that "the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off-for all whom the Lord our God will call " (Acts 2:39).

Thanks for your feedback. I am happy to discuss the issue further.

God Bless, Alan Marshall

22 January 2006: Received from (another) Alan Marshall, Australia

Hi Alan,

I appreciate your learned view on the subject of tongues (meaning that you have been diligent and open in your study there of). I was often troubled in my church experience by the pentacostal dogma of the gift of tongues and like you have pondered its application in those churches. Be that as it may, I speak in an unknown tongue taught to my spirit by the holy spirit and I use it to edify myself as I should. I have also heard other peoples unknown tongues and have percieved or understood in some measure what was being communicated (on rare occassions).

I expect that prior to Babel, there was one world language. God then made a pest of himself and divided men into several groups by changing their entire language so that it became unrecognisable to those of the different groups. Divine intervention. The bible says he confused their speech. I see that all languages belong to god. Perhaps he gave men the full gammit of his treasure box of new languages at babel. Perhaps he only gave men 2% of his languages at babel. Perhaps the gift of tongues can therefore be an earthly language of men (given at babel) of an angelic tongue, (a language not given at babel). Perhaps gods languages cross over each other and can be partly understood by a number of people groups. In the end, what ever they are, they are what they are and we love using them.

God bless you in all you do for him as I am sure you would in like wise bless me.

1 July 2005: Received from Tara

Hello, I am trying to understand "Speaking in Tongues." From what I have read I understand that this is God's way of taking one language (The language of the speaker), and translating it for people who speak other languages to hear. This way more people hear the word of God. Am I correct in my understandings?.....

My Reply

Thanks for writing. There are a variety of views on the nature of tongues. Some believe thay are angelic or heavenly languages, while others argue they are human languages. These views of the nature of tongues are related to different views of the purpose of tongues. Those who consider tongues to be angelic languages, emphasise the use of the gift as a special communication channel to God. Those, including myself, who consider tongues to be human languages, understand the gift as a sign of God's desire to bring people of all nations into relationship with himself. If you read Acts chapter 2 in its entirety, I believe you will find it supports the view that I have presented. The view that you express below is almost right. The distinction I would make is that to consciously teach the word of God to people who speak other languages, we still need to make the effort to understand both their language and their culture. In contrast to this, the gift of tongues involves words of praise in a foreign language which are spontaneously given by the Holy Spirit. The tongue demonstrates the miraculous power of God, and by using the hearer's native language, shows that God wants to reach them. This is what happened in Acts 2. Thousands witnessed the power of God. Then Peter preached the word of God to them in a language he could naturally speak, probably Greek. By the way, in Greek as well as in English, the word for tongue means a language.

24 June 2005: Received from Dick Rasp, USA

Greetings,

Yours is one of the few articles I can find that scratches my itch. I have heard of a few cases where a person spoke in an earthly language not learned. I have never seen it, myself, and reserve judgment until I can satisfy myself that the genuine exists. I in no way accept that all are intended to speak in tongues and even less that one is not saved unless one speaks in tongues. I don't think it is necessarily demonic (though I see that Satan is having a field day with it). I suspect most of it is as you said, learned, even though some may not remember they have been exposed to it one way or another (who in the civilized world hasn't heard of the phenomenon?) I also believe that much of it is due to an emotional "high". I think this is why so many non-Christian groups/tribes/religious leaders speak in tongues.

I, too, worship at a Pentecostal church. I don't mind others exercising their "gift". I would rather err on the side of caution so far as throwing the whole thing out. I do resent having to listen to yet one more teaching that all should be speaking in tongues--that it is the sign of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. To that I say, "Sign to whom?" I know I have been baptized with the Holy Spirit (incredible experience that occurred at the same time as my salvation); God knows I have been baptized with the Holy Spirit. Now who else do I need to prove it to? Every pastor? Every teacher? Every other Christian? I'm sure you've seen what happens when there is an unbeliever present and nearly everybody in the room begins to babble. If they don't leave immediately, they don't come back. For those of us who don't speak in tongues and would like to fellowship with the Lord in English, forget it. The din is overwhelming. And I can't understand a word of it, so it doesn't benefit me at all. It doesn't benefit me and it hinders me. I would much rather someone say a heartfelt "Praise you Jesus", a simple, but meaningful expression of adoration that blesses me by the hearing of it. Does that sound familiar? I worship with the Pentecostals because I want more out of my worship experience than opening a bulletin/program and singing the two or three hymns listed therein. Sometimes I wonder if I shouldn't just settle for a less edifying praise and a more solid grasp of the Word. It's a hard choice. It seems that if there are people like you, they are hard to find. The ones I talk to are usually far to the right or far to the left. It's either all must or all must not.

By the way, I have attended a gathering of Christians the purpose of which was to impart the Holy Spirit. That means tongues, of course. I have seen on more than one occasion the attempt to teach it by saying, "Okay now. Open your mouth. Let your jaw go slack. Make some noise. Go 'ba-ba-ba' " etc. Sorry. God is going to have to do more than that to impart the gift of tongues to me. He didn't need somebody doing that shtick on the Day of Pentecost. I'm not throwing out the possibility it is a gift God still gives, but I am convinced I haven't seen the real deal yet. Hope I do some day.

Regards, P. Rasp

11 June 2005: Received from Kwabena L Peat, UK

Bro. Marshall

Praise and worship is due to our God, Creator, Sustainer and Saviour through Jesus who is the Christ. Thank you for your article on the gift of tongues in the Church. You work is measured, theologically sound and brings a welcome change to how glossolalia is perceived and understood in the Pentecostal tradition, I am sure it has and will continue to generate discussion.

I have often wondered why my brothers and sisters in Christ have so easily misunderstood the context in which the gift of tongues i.e. human languages is given. It was given to confirm the power and presence of God in a particular situation. Consider Acts: 10:44-48, the household of Cornelius accepted God who immediately confirmed his power and presence to the Jewish audience by supernaturally enabling the converts to speak other languages.

The event therefore was not about the people but about God; Like Pentecost it was a local manifestation of God’s enabling power for the fledging church. Imagine the impact of the 3000 that were added to the church that day, think of the power of their witness on their return to their own countries all because of the supernatural ability of the Apostle’s to speak other human languages through the unction of the Holy Spirit.

People have told me that they are able to speak in tongues because they have been baptised by the Holy Spirit just as the apostles were on the day of Pentecost. What is clear to me is the fact that the Apostles were baptised by the Holy Spirit as they waited for him in obedience to the command of Jesus to tarry in Jerusalem for the Spirit. (Acts 1:4-5) Their wills, already surrendered to the Authority of God, confirmed his presence by supernaturally enabling them to speak other languages. This does not mean however that everyone who speaks in a ‘tongue’ has been baptised by the Spirit. It is my considered opinion that baptism of the Holy Spirit is not a one off occurrence confirmed by the ability to speak in tongues; to the contrary it is ongoing, evidenced by the obedient sanctified lives of the saints.

It is in this context that tongues and the other gifts of the Spirit should be seen; that is, God, enabling the continuous growth of the church, manifests his power in the lives of his people through gifts of healing, administrations, teaching, prophecy, tongues etc. (1 Corinthians 12:1-11) These gifts are given to the church but not everyone has all of them, furthermore of all the gifts, tongues is certainly not pre eminent nor necessary at every assembly. Where it is necessary then there must also be interpretation so that the church is ‘edified.’ Needless to say then, where there is no interpretation, the tongue is not from God.

My father referred me to a conversation that he had with a Polish brother who told him that he once heard someone using Polish obscenities while supposedly full of the ‘Spirit’ during a church service that he had been invited to. He concluded that the Spirit of God would not lead anyone to curse at any time, least of all during collective worship; he never visited the fellowship again.

I have heard that some believe where there is no interpretation to tongues spoken during collective worship, it is because the tongues is not human language, but rather the tongues of Angels, i.e. the heavenly language spoken of by Paul 1 Corinthians 14:14-16. A careful reading of the word clearly shows that this heavenly language was not a general gift for the church, but a one to one communication by the Holy Spirit to an individual; for that reason it is not applied in collective worship but in personal devotions.......

......In my humble opinion I believe that the truth of tongues is taught erroneously in the Pentecostal and Charismatic tradition. 1 Corinthians 14:1-39 explains the place of tongues very well, particularly verse 22. “Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however is for believers, not for unbelievers” God’s word is very clear, it brings enlightenment not confusion. For this reason I pray that your essay will start a debate that will help to bring about a change in the Pentecostal understanding of this wonderful gift.

In Christ I am your brother. Kwabena L Peat

18 May 2005: Received from Kate, USA

Thank you for your website. I have been speaking in sacred languages for six years. There were traumatic incident(s) which happened early in life. When you are a young child and cannot speak you create sounds to release the fear. When the fear is acknowledged through the cries for help and it is apparent that there isn't anyone coming for your rescue, the sounds change into transcendent message. As if to say, "God, please deliver me from this place". This is where I connected to the holy spirit and found that it has a voice. Later on in my adult life I found myself asking for comfort again through these sacred languages. I received an incredible spiritual healing through that incident. Since then I have been exploring them further. I have grown from the past and healed from childhood wounds and it has a lot to do with this type of spiritual healing. I do not follow any particular religious dogma other than my own spiritual guidance and the teachings of Jesus Christ. I have not had these languages analyzed by anyone. It isn't necessary for me to have them "qualified" as being real. It is something that may be interesting to share. Your written work is very appreciated! Warmly, Kate.

13 February 2005: Received from Ralph, USA

dear sir,

as i have studied my bible [kjv]i believe the gift of tongues and other gifts were given to the apostles and others picked by GOD to use these gift to get the attention of the non beleiver so the gospel could be preached to them.i read 1cor.13;8-13 and it tells me that when jesus came and died and went to the father all these gifts would end. PAUL give us a clear message as the correct way in with speaking in tongues are to be done in church.and if is is not do as described in 1 cor. it is to the edification of the speaker.1 cor14;27-33 and this also say there will be an interpreter when some one speaks in a tongue.so my question about this is how can some regelions say that speaking in tongues is the only real proof of being saved. i visit a holiness church that believes this and on every visit there will be someone speak in a tongue with no interpeter present,some times 6 or 8 will be speaking in tongues at one time.this is not right according to my bible.

thanks for listing god bless you ralph

My Reply

Ralph,

I agree with your comments on the use of tongues, and I have doubts about much of what is claimed to be tongues today. It is also true that the apostles had a special anointing which no preacher has today (2 Cor 12:12). Nethertheless, the passage you refer to seems to indicate that the gifts would continue. These gifts were given at pentecost after Jesus went to the Father. Therefore in 1 Cor 13:10, the phrase "when the perfect comes" must refer to Jesus second coming.

What you have shared about the beliefs of your church disturb me. As 1 Cor 12:29-31 so forcefully teaches, not all born-again believers will receive this gift. As I recently explained to another enquirer, this is a passage that old-school pentecostals cannot satisfactorily deal with. (You may be interested in reading the advice I sent to this young woman). Naturally, if not all born-again believers are given tongues, then it cannot be a sign of salvation. Jesus did include tongues as one of the signs that would follow those who believe (Mark 16:17-18), but these are signs given to the church, not individual believers. Does every believer have to heal the sick, or pick up snakes, or drink poison to be saved? Of course not! Neither then do they have to speak in tongues.

The true signs that an individual christian is saved are taught to us in a most eloquent manner by the apostle John, "the disciple whom Jesus loved". Firstly we know that we have received eternal life by the fact that we have accepted God's trustworthy testimony about his son (1 John 4:15-16, 5:9-13). Evidences which confirm the genuineness of our faith are the presence, power and fruit of the Spirit (1 John 4:13), love for God and our fellow man (1 John 4:16-17), and obeying God's commands (1 John 5:3-4). This is the God who loves you on whom you can rely. The God presented by your church, who condemns people simply because they don't join others in their babbling, is a false God, and a gospel which preaches this is a distorted gospel (2 Cor 11:3-4).

I don't think trying to argue this with your pastor will be helpful. They are locked in to the teaching of their denomination and are deceived. You owe it to yourself and to God to find another church which is vibrant and biblical, but which is faithful to the gospel of grace. If you are looking for a church which moves in the power of the Spirit, and has a strong emphasis on grace, the Vineyard network of churches is worth a look.

This advice is not just theoretical - it comes from experience. When I was a young man I attended a church just like yours for a couple of months, and was even baptised there. But when I failed to speak in tongues, and was afraid I wasn't saved because of this warped teaching, I knew I had to get out.

So Ralph, have the courage to make the journey. Jesus will be with you always (Matthew 28:20), and he will plant you in a church where you can grow and be a blessing to others!

God Bless, Alan Marshall

22 December 2004: Received from Joanna, USA

Hey, My name is Joanna and I came across your website when i was looking for information about speaking in tounges. On thursday night I am talking to a couple of people about whether it is right to speak in tongues. Can you give me any tips, bible references, proof or ideas??? Thanks so much, Love a sister in christ, Joanna.

My Reply

Joanna,

As you can see from my essay, I am someone who has been a member of both traditional and pentecostal churches, and someone who can appreciate the strengths and weaknesses of each group. My essay argues that genuine tounges is praise to God in various languages of mankind. There are examples of that on my "Tongues of Men" page. Many years ago when I was exploring this issue for myself, I heard the word "shalama" in meetings of two different pentecostal groups a few weeks apart. Only last week did I discover that this means "peace" in Aramaic, Jesus' native language. However, there is also evidence that much of the tongues spoken by christians today is fleshly (just made up sounds), while some has proved to be demonic. Don't presume that the tongues spoken by your friends is genuine.

I have prayed about how to respond to your request, and rather than give you a long list of points to cover with your friends, I felt I should give you two rock solid scriptures to study. If you stand by these scriptures in your meeting with your friends, they will protect you from any unwelcome pressure to speak in tongues.

When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:21-22)

Jesus is our role model. He is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:8). Jesus himself was baptized with the Holy Spirit. He didn't need the baptism with the Spirit to be saved, for he was sinless from birth. But when the Holy Spirit "descended on him", he was empowered for the ministry God had given him. Notice that there is no mention here or elsewhere of Jesus speaking in tongues. Therefore tongues cannot be the exclusive sign of the baptism with the Spirit. If Jesus didn't speak in tongues, no-one can tell you that you need to.

Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But eagerly desire the greater gifts. (1 Cor 12:29-31)

Here Paul is explaining why we each have different gifts. His questions are rhetorical. In each case the reader understands the answer is "No". The Corinthians understand that not all are apostles or prophets. So Paul works down from this to prove to them that they do not all need to speak in tongues.

This verse alone is sufficient to disprove the claims of pentecostals about tongues. Therefore they have to try and explain it away, and no doubt your friends will try to tell you there are actually two gifts of tongues, a private one which sprit-filled christians have, and a public one which only a few have. Don't accept this nonsense! Even my friend who is a pentecostal pastor knows this is not true. There is only one gift of tongues, which may be used publically on some occasions and privately on others. Do all have this gift? Paul clearly says no.

Your friends will no doubt confront you with other scriptures and arguments that you will not be sure how to answer. My advice is not to accept their interpretation unless you are sure that it is right. It would be better to say that you would rather take the scripture references with you to think and pray about them. If your friends gently persuade you to their way of thinking, that's fine. But if they get manipulative, apply pressure or guilt trips, then politely end the meeting and go home. If pentecostals have spent more than 100 years practising tongues but still don't properly understand it, then surely you deserve a few weeks to figure things out for yourself.

Hopefully your friends do not belong to that small section of pentecostalism that teaches you must speak in tongues in order to be saved. If you find your friends do teach this nonsense, then cancel the meeting. Such people are deceived and you will get nowhere arguing with them.

If you trust your friends and decide to let them pray for you to be "filled with the Spirit", just open your heart to God to humbly receive whatever he wants to give you. Remember that the primary activity of the Spirit in our lives is to reveal truth (John 16:13) and to transform out hearts (Ezekiel 36:26). Don't focus just on tongues. Earnestly desire the "greater gifts", and don't demand the gift of tongues when we know it not given to all. Don't let your friends talk you into making up words. If you are to receive the genuine gift of tongues, it will be miraculous and spontaneous - it won't require any effort from you at all. If you follow these principles you will come to no harm, and may well be blessed.

Let me know how the evening goes. I would be happy to discuss with you any questions that come up. If you do speak in tongues, try to remember a few of the words and we will see if we can discover their meaning.

You are a princess!

God Bless, Alan Marshall

21 October 2004: Received from Allen Hall, CA, USA

Alan, Thanks for your internet "ministry" I have enjoyed it.

A passage of scripture about Tongues does not make sense to me. I wonder if you have any "words of wisdom" that will help me understand.
1Cor 14:16 Tongues are for believers (abbreviated)
1Cor 14:22 Tongues are not for believers.
1Cor 14:23 Tongues are for believers.
The over all context of Acts Chap. 2-8-10-19 and 1 Cor. Chap 12-14 would seem tongues are for believers. This passage (14:22) does not seem to "fit."

Any insights?

My Reply

Allen, Thanks for your enquiry. It is a perplexing passage, isn't it! So much so that J.B. Phillips, in the introduction to his translation of the new testament, says that it is the only passage where he felt justified in correcting what he believed to be a scribe's error. (In 1 Cor 14:22, he reverses the words "believers" and "unbelievers"). While this possibility can't be dismissed entirely, it is not a solution that I think neither of us is comfortable with.

I actually have no difficulty with v. 22 itself. The whole thrust of my essay is that the first and foremost purpose of the gift is that it serve as a sign to gentiles from "every tribe and language (tongue) and people and nation" (Rev 5:9), to "all who are far off" (Acts 2:39), that through Christ they can enter the kingdom of God. In this sense, tongues are a sign to unbelievers. Unbelievers can respond positively to the preaching of the gospel that is confirmed by this and other signs (Mark 16:17), as many did at Pentecost, and become believers. In fact, they themselves can manifest the sign during the conversion process. In such circumstances the tongues may be recognised as foreign languages, but they do not have to be interpreted. Interestingly, there is no record in the book of Acts of tongues being interpreted. Unbelievers can also reject both the gospel and the sign, as the leaders of the Jews did. In this case the foreign tongues become a sign of judgement, as Isaiah foretold (Isaiah 28:11-14, 1 Cor 14:21, cf. Acts 18:6)

Tongues have a secondary purpose among believers where they are interpreted. Paul acknowledges this in 1 Cor 14:13-16, but the overall thrust of the chapter is to address the inappropriate use among assembled believers of uninterpreted tongues. The problem was that some of the Corinthians were still focused on the miracle itself, and the result was anarchy. They were still focused on the manifestation as they had experienced it at their conversion, and had not yet learned how to use it for the benefit of the body of Christ. That is why Paul tells them to "stop thinking like children". Therefore it is uninterpreted tongues among gathered believers that he speaks against in v.23, and this is how I resolve the apparent tension with v.22.

I am partly indebted to John Calvin for this understanding, even thought the gift of tongues was neglected in his time. He has his detractors, but I admire him for this. He never shied away difficult passages, but applied himself until he had a plausible interpretation.

I hope this is helpful. Let me know what you think.

21 October 2004: Received from Allen Hall, CA, USA

A few years ago we were actively working with the Cursillo (Catholic retreat) movement. This one was held in Galt CA in a Catholic school. My wife was sharing a room with a nun in a dormitory section. The workers put in long hard hours to keep the functions of the retreat going. During a break time my wife and the nun went to their room for some rest. My wife told the nun she wanted to have some quiet prayer time. With our Pentecostal background that naturally means praying in Tongues. My wife often prays like that in a whisper so as not to disturb others around her. As she prayed the nun slipped on her habit and left the room without comment. Later the leader of the retreat was laughing and told my wife the nun came to him excited. She said as my wife lips were moving with her prayer there were flashes of lights (Tongues of fire?). The leader also spoke in Tongues and knew how devout my wife was. He told the nun it was okay it was just a work of the Holy Spirit. The dormitory section of the school was situated in such a way no reflection of cars or anything else could naturally explain the flashing lights. And the light moving in sequence with my wife's lips all the more convinced us it was a work of the Holy Spirit.

18 August 2004: Received from Deborah, USA

Hi, Yesterday my friend and I attended a new church. It was very inspiring with the soft rock music, the sing alongs, the sermon of God, and the unity. However, when I accepted to be "prayed over" for healing, the minister and his wife no less, spoke over me in "tongues." Then again, I was sent to a room where three other women of the church prayed over me in a prophetical manner. One woman even began "twitching" because she had the Holy spirit. I got completely discouraged when they all did this because I don't think these ordinary people could have that gift. It seems like a farce. What do you think?

My Reply:

Pentecostal churches are too ready to accept anything because they are focussed on experience of the miraculous. I believe we should be focused on truth, not subjective truth, but on that which God has revealed. When Jesus was tempted, he did not say to the devil "this is how I feel". Rather, he said "it is written". For that reason, though I spent 10 years in a pentecostal church, and still love them, for the moment I worship at an evangelical church which is open to the Spirit.

The reality is that most "tongues" spoken in churches today is pretty unimpressive, for reasons I have made clear in my essay. But don't reject it all simply because others are undiscriminating. The gift of tongues, though rare, is real and has a significance most pentecostals have hardly grasped!

22 July 2004: Received from Nancy, USA

Hi and blessings. I attended an Assembly of God church for over four years which I found very "spiritual" if I may use that term. Some of my dearest friends speak in tongues which almost sounds Hebrew or Arabic. I don't know how to think about this since I know these people are on fire for Jesus and said they received this at the time of conversion. Just recently I came across a web site, "Charismatic or Islam" which said that some worlds spoken by them was of the Hindu language. One word was -- "Shandilyanmai Shundai," which means, "May the goddess be exalted" in Vedanta Hindu. Has anyone done a study by tape recording people speaking in tongues and trying to decifer the words? Today I am going to a Baptist church because my husband said he would never attend Christian Life for one reason or another. There are pluses and minuses in both churches.

My Reply:

Thanks for this feedback. It is very interesting.

I have worshipped in Pentecostal and evangelical churches, and like you, I think there are "pluses and minuses in both churches". Likewise I think some tongues are genuine, and others are not. It is not easy to distinguish them, but the following observation might be useful to you. I believe those who spontaneously speak in tongues, without any effort or prompting, at their conversion or baptism, are likely to have the genuine gift. The risk is for people who don't receive it this way, and who keep striving to receive the gift until they believe they have it. The scripture is absolutely plain that not all believers will speak in tongues, so if people think they have to have a gift that God has chosen not to give them, they leave themselves open to self-deception, and even to demonic counterfeits.

I chose not to say anything in my essay about demonic tongues, because I didn't want to unnecessarily disturb my readers, but they are around. In the feedback I get from others, there is compelling evidence for both the genuine and the demonic. Just as in the first century, you don't get one without the other. And there are genuine tongues that do sound like "Hebrew or Arabic". The key to making sense of the modern tongues movement is to understand the purpose of the gift, and this is something both pentecostal and evangelical churches need to re-examine. I have attached a reply that I sent to another enquirer, which further explains my understanding of the gift's purpose.

There is also a book, "Empowered Evangelicals", that you and your husband might find helpful. It mixes personal experiences with intelligent observations.

3 July 2004: Received from J. Caesar, USA

Good essay, I was wondering about the modern tongue phenomena and new age movement which started in the early first part of the 20th century. Azuza st outporing?

I heard there were some stange things like people being told to switch wives and husbands from prohpets and others strange stuff that was nto biblical. I have also seen when people are prayed for, spirits cast out, but not when praying tongues.

I am for tongues, but there is just something not right to me about the modern tongue movement. The new age cults do the same techniques and mind control. Otherwise everyone, I know that spoke in togues learned it from someone else, tarrying in a back room or at the alter. They beleive it is a secret prayer language and you are not saved, if you do not speak it.

Tell me what you think about Azuza.

My Reply:

Thanks very much for the feedback! It really is helpful. I believe that genuine tongues are a marvellous sign, but like you, I think that "something is not right about the modern tongues movement".

I believe that much of the division between Pentecostals and traditional churches flows from a misunderstanding of the purpose of the gift. It is said the content of tongues messages is praise to God, and there is biblical evidence for this. However, this does not explain the purpose of the gift, for the Spirit can just as easily supply words of praise in English, as in a foreign language.

The purpose of the gift is really so obvious that one wonders how Pentecostals have missed it. The purpose of the gift at Pentecost, and its purpose today, is to confirm the "great commission" given to the church by Jesus. This commission appears in the final chapter of the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. The words in each gospel are similar, and so I don't believe the debate about who wrote the last chapter of Mark is really relevant. In Mark we read:

He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. 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 drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues ...
... Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it. (Mark 16:15-17,20)

In Luke we read:

He told them, "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high." (Luke 24:46-49)

Luke's later account of this "clothing with power from on high" makes clear that it was accompanied by a miraculous sign in which Jesus' disciples began praising God in various languages of the Mediteranean world. This drew the attention of Jews from foreign lands who were worshipping in Jerusalem at the time. The significance of this was not lost on Peter, who was emboldened to say:

Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off--for all whom the Lord our God will call." With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation." Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. (Acts 2:38-40)

Another christian writer with whom I correspond (Mark Tank) puts it this way:

"Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not ." I Corinthians 14:22 (KJV)

Tongues are a sign that God wants all men, of all nations, to be saved. That is what Peter tells them at Pentecost, that all these things are done so that ".whosoever shall call on the name of the lord shall be saved." It seem very clear from the scripture the purpose and direction God is going with this marvelous gift. It is a sign to all men of all languages that God loves them and desires them to be saved. While at the same time it is a judgement against Israel.

To get back to your question about the origins of the modern tongues movement, it is worth noting that the very first manifestations, unlike much of what passes for tongues today, were reported to be foreign languages. Among the languages spoken by the followers of Charles Parham in 1901 were Farsi and one of the main Chinese languages. This is a potent reminder of that the great commission remains to be fulfilled by christians of our day, and indeed, it was durng the 1900's that the gospel first had a major impact in China. Likewise Farsi is spoken widely in Afghanastan, a country that has only recently been freed from the darkness of Islamic fundamentalism.

The problem with the modern tongues movement dates not from Charles Parham, but from Azusa St in 1905-6. This is well documented in the excellent history of Pentecostalism by Vinson Synan (see book review on my site). When Parham visited Azusa St and saw what was going on, he denounced it. Although we still see the genuine gift of tongues here and there, I think the widespread couterfeit tongues in many churches today, and the "anything goes" mentality, dates from Azusa St.

As for those you say one must speak in tongues to be saved, this is absolute nonsense! Jesus was filled with the Spirit, bit he did not speak in tongues. Paul clearly says the gift of tongues is not one that all will exercise (1 Cor 12:30). Those who peddle this doctrine are perverting the gospel, and show little spiritual insight.

It is good to seek genuine gifts for the benefit of the church (1 Cor 12:31), and they are needed for the extension of the kingdom, but they are no real measure of our relationship with God (Matt 7:21-23). Jesus calls us to love God with all our heart, and to love others in the same way that God loves them. If you gratefully accept what Jesus has done for you, and live by these commands, you will do well.

18 January 2004: Received from Randy Deese

I thought I might comment on some of the things you said on your web site.

You said, "I have always believed that the bible teaches that the gift of tongues expressed the gospel"

What exactly do you mean by this? If you mean that tongue speaking is "preaching the gospel", I believe you would be pushing the envelope on sound hermeneutics. If you mean that tongue speaking, as you briefly mentioned in some of your comments, is, at least partially, communicating (in general terms) that the gospel is for all nations, by that fact that tongues was spoken in a variety of languages on the day of Pentecost, then I would agree with you.

You said, "...or praise to God..."

I will agree that tongues is demonstrated to be prayer or praise in the Scriptures.

You said, "...or other revelation..."

I do not know what Scripture would support this notion. Perhaps you could share it.

You said, "in a language of man unknown to the speaker (ie. a foreign language)."

I would agree that tongues is a foreign language... not necessary one understood today... and I would disagree with those that would say that it is angelic tongues. Logically, this does not make a great deal of sense. After all, how many languages would the angels need to communicate with each other? For that matter, do they verbally communicate with each other? I believe Paul was merely making a point. Furthermore, I do not know if it is that important whether tongues is known today or not. After all, when one speaks in tongues, it is directed at God, not man (1 Corinthians 14:2).

You said, "The main passage indicating this is Acts 2:1-21, where Jews who had come to Jerusalem from various parts of the Roman Empire and Middle East, heard the disciples speaking in their native tongues. Another important passage is 1 Corinthians 14:10, where Paul says there are many tongues (languages) in the world, indicating that the ordinary gift of tongues is a foreign language unknown to the speaker, not an angelic tongue."

I agree!

You said, "When Christ's perfect kingdom comes, earthly languages "will be stilled" (1 Corinthians 13:8). Angelic tongues, if they exist, will still be spoken, at least by angels. I believe the explanation given by many pentecostals, that the gift is one of angelic tongues, is weak."

I would say that it is a very weak argument...I am a Pentecostal myself!

You said, "I think they use this explanation, probably unconsciously, to ease their own doubts about whether what is spoken is really language at all.

Perhaps! Or maybe it is because the non-Pentecostals are attacking from every angle with "prove that your tongues is real"! We don't speak in tongues, therefore, your tongues cannot be real!

You said, "In fact, the whole framework of pentecostal teaching on tongues and the baptism of the spirit is badly in need of overhaul."

To some degree, I would agree with this statement, but perhaps not from the same frame of reference.

You said, "Paul asks "Do all speak in tongues?" (1 Corinthians 12:30). Clearly pentecostals have been wrong in teaching that it is a gift for all."

I would like to discuss that very in detail with you at another time. I think, hermeneutically speaking, this one out-of-context proof-text needs to be carefully evaluated in light of the whole New Testament. There are many things to consider.

You said, "In doing so, they have often taken believers' attention away from Christ."

Perhaps, by not emphasizing the infilling of the Holy Spirit, one taking the believers' attention away from the victory of Christ!

You said, "On the other hand, the answer to Paul's question is that some do speak in tongues, and evangelicals have been wrong in denying this. Paul commands that we "do not forbid speaking in tongues" (1 Corinthians 14:39). Many evangelical churches continue to forbid it in practice, even if there is no written prohibition."

I agree with your last statement here.

Well, just some thoughts... God bless you, R.W. Deese - A Practicing Pentecostal

My Reply:

Brother Randy,

Your are obviously a thoughtful person, and your comments are appreciated. Are you are a pastor? I notice you found my Tongues Forum page. I need to update that shortly, and if it is all right with you, I would like to include some or all of your remarks.

Here is some feedback on your questions and comments:

You said, "I would agree that tongues is a foreign language... not necessary one understood today..."

I accept that not all tongues will be languages still spoken today.

You said, "Perhaps, by not emphasizing the infilling of the Holy Spirit, one taking the believers' attention away from the victory of Christ!"

Yes, I agree. But we need to be careful not to pursue the infilling / annointing of the Holy Spirit as if it were some magical power in its own right. The engine of the Holy Spirit's power in us is the death and resurrection of Christ.

I said, "When Christ's perfect kingdom comes, earthly languages "will be stilled" (1 Corinthians 13:8). Angelic tongues, if they exist, will still be spoken, at least by angels. I believe the explanation given by many pentecostals, that the gift is one of angelic tongues, is weak."

You said, "I would say that it is a very weak argument...I am a Pentecostal myself!"

Thankyou for acknowledging the weakness of this argument of many Pentecostals. I would like to acknowlege the weakness of another argument, put by many evangelicals, that the phrase "when perfection comes" is referring to the canon of scripture. What nonsense! So it seems 1 Corinthians 13:8 is a key verse in demolishing false arguments from both camps.

I said, "I have always believed that the bible teaches that the gift of tongues expressed the gospel"

You said, "What exactly do you mean by this? If you mean that tongue speaking is "preaching the gospel", I believe you would be pushing the envelope on sound hermeneutics. If you mean that tongue speaking, as you briefly mentioned in some of your comments, is, at least partially, communicating (in general terms) that the gospel is for all nations, by that fact that tongues was spoken in a variety of languages on the day of Pentecost, then I would agree with you."

I need to distinguish between the content of tongues and their signifigance. The content of tongues, as described at Pentecost and at Cornelius' house, is primarily praise. While praise speaks to God, in so far as it gives thanks for what God has done, it does have some gospel content. It is not, except in some rare circumstances, the means by which the gospel is preached. At Pentecost, Jews from around the world heard the disciples praising God, for what he had done, in their own languages, but it was Peter's conscious proclamation of the gospel in the common language of Aramaic or Greek that saved 3000 persons that day (Acts 2:14-41). Similar comments could be made about Peter at Cornelius' house (Acts 10:34-48).

Much has been written about the content of tongues, and I did not set out to add much on the subject, except to show that the scriptural gift refers to languages of men. The main purpose of my essay was to discuss the signifigance of tongues, an aspect of the debate I felt had been neglected. The sign of speaking languages of men that are unknown to the speaker has a different meaning to that of supposed "tongues of angels".

The importance of this sign to the early church cannot be overstated. The issue of whether the Gentiles could be included in Christ, without becoming Jews, was the biggest one faced by the first christians. Although Jesus had commanded the gospel to be taken to the ends of the earth, Peter still need a fair bit of persuading (Acts 10:1 - 11:18, Gal 2:11-14). The revelation that the Gentiles were joint heirs is what Paul refers to as the "mystery of Christ" (Eph 3:4-6). If you have not already read my essay "Tongues of Angels?", I refer you there for futher discussion of this point.

The gifts of the Spirit, including tongues, testify to the salvation first announced by the Lord (Heb 2:3-4), a salvation that was to be "preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem" (Luke 24:47). As this gospel was proclaimed, the Lord is reported as saying "And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues ... ", and we are told " ... Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it." (Mark 16:17,20)

It makes sense to me that the sign of tongues normally points forward rather than backwards. Therefore the "tongues of men" would normally be languages of nations where the gospel was being preached or was yet to be preached. This may help explain why, for the most part, these languages are not recognised, but we must be careful not to use this as an excuse for allowing anything to pass as the genuine gift.

I believe the resurgence of gifts and other miraculous phenomena point to the fact that the kingdom of God in all its fullness is fast approaching. Yet Jesus says "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come" (Matt 24:14). So the sign of tongues, in part, points us to the work still to be done.

Well, these are some more thoughts. To produce a thorough and coherent exposition of the Bible's teaching on tongues is not easy, and I don't think anyone, including myself, has yet covered all aspects satisfactorily. But your comments have been helpful, and I trust some of my additional remarks above may also be useful.

12 November 2003: Received from Brian

Hey, I don't know you and you don't know me, but I stumbled across your article on tongues and wondered if you have received any testimonies that you feel are objective and true. My parents "speak in tongues", so I have an interest in what people are saying about it. I'm working on a paper for one of my seminary classes and thought you'd have something to say about the topic: Dispensationalism/Progressive Dispensationalism. You don't have to write back, I don't even know if this address still exists, or how long ago you wrote that article.

My Reply

It is interesting that you are a christian who apparently does not "speak in tongues", even though your parents do. It fits with an observation I have made on Pentecostal churches I have been involved with. These churches have surprisingly low numbers of young adults. Perhaps there is a demographic explanation, but I was wondering whether the neo-pentecostal movement of the 70's and early 80's is growing a bit tired, and whether the claims to supernatural phenomena are seen by the following generation to be exaggerated. I am not making any judgement about your parents gifts, but do you think I have a point?

In regard to my essay, I have received generally positive feedback. Some write agreeing with my position that discernment is needed. Others write to share stories about tongues that have been recognised as foreign languages. So I do believe there is a genuine gift, although I suspect many claims to the gift are not genuine.

In regard to your paper, I can't give you much help. I am not a dispensationalist, believing in fact that there is great harmony between the old and new testaments. It is after all the same God. His character does not change, nor does the response he seeks from us. There is certainly a fuller revelation of his grace in the new testament, but it is there in the old testament if you look for it. And the new testament also contains the same warnings about disobedience that are in the old. I am not a pre-millenialist either, although I do see biblical prophecy fulfilled in the nation of Israel, and feel that are we are moving into the last phase of history prior to Christ's return. That may help explain the rise in the incidence of miraculous gifts over the same period.

Brian's Response

Alan, Many thanks for your reply. You gave me exactly what I was looking for. I would love to hear more. I am a dispensationalist, but it sounds like the both of us aren't too far apart. I believe that to probably be the case between most Christians that may not share the same views about interpretation, prophecy, etc. The Hope (that He will come again) that gives us strength to endure is the most important part. Your comments help me to keep my thoughts and my paper not to biased.

My parents are relatively new charismatics. We have a Bible Church background so you can imagine how interesting our dinner time converstaions can be. Anyways, I usually try and bite my "tongue" about the issue because unity in the Body is of utmost importance to me.

I appreciate your time and effort in getting back to me. I hope that you are finding satisfaction in living out you faith. God Bless, Brian

13 August 2003: Received from David

I read your writing on tongues and found it interesting. I am trying to write on this very subject myself. I have been researching the subject for quite some time. I have one page written so far but feel I have more to reasearch before I really get into finishing [it].

I do happen to have an explanation for the 1 Cor 13:1 - ...angels. Remember that an angel is just a messenger from God. Paul was taken to that 3rd heaven (eternity) 2 Cor 12:2 and heard things that we are not privy to. So he is saying if he (Paul) could speak the things that men or angels know...

A question I could pose: if this 'tongue' is an actual dialect of heaven then how or why would it cease if when we die we will be as the angels? You have it here but not eternity? Rather it is the tongues of men that will cease when we are in heaven because we will all be on one accord.

I too attend a charismatic church. I was a S. Baptist before but God really broke something loose from me in our current church. I just tune out all the 'babel' that is going on around me while I am worshipping God.

I would like to hear your input on this.

My Reply

I am delighted to receive your feedback. You have some important insights into this question of the nature of tongues. My exposition of 1 Cor 13:1-3 acknowledges that there are tongues of men and a tongue (or tongues) of angels. I clearly see a contrast between the normal gifts of tongues, prophecy, faith and love, and the most extraordinary impartations of those gifts that one could imagine, namely the tongue of angels, the fathoming of all mysteries, faith that moves mountains, and love that surrenders one's body to the flames. That is not to say the tongue of angels is unknown, but I think it is unusual, and Paul, when he was taken to the 3rd heaven, may have been one of the few to hear it spoken.

The reason I believe there is only one heavenly or angelic tongue is that in the bible, diversity of languages is a judgement against sin, and leads to enmity between nations (Gen 11:1-9). Unity and harmony in heaven implies a common language. Apart from Martin Lloyd-Jones, I have found no-one else who sees the contrast between Babel and Pentecost as I do, but I think the link is clear and it is powerful. From "every nation, tribe, people and language (tongue)" (Rev 7:9), the Spirit poured out at Pentecost forms one body of Christ, one people of God. The gift of tongues signifies this unity, just as the diversity of tongues at Babel signified disunity.

How then does the gift of tongues express this unity in Christ? If it is indeed the tongue spoken by angels, then this would certainly express unity. We would all be speaking the heavenly tongue that will ours for all eternity. However, if the gifts of tongues are normally the languages of men, this expresses our unity in Christ equally well. For if we speak each others' languages, then language no longer partitions humanity, signifying that the "wall of hostility" dividing Jew and Gentile no longer exists (Eph 2:14).

It seems to me that the kingdom implications of the gift of tongues are still quite lost on the pentecostal movement. For example, one of the first languages claimed to be spoken by Charles Parham's disciples in 1901 was Farsi, which is spoken in parts of Iran and Afghanistan. The gospel still desperately needs to be heard in these nations, and the Holy Spirit's use of their language is a sure sign of his coming work there.

Now while both the tongues of men, and the tongue of angels, have the capacity to express our unity in Christ, there are two reasons why I believe the gift normally manifests as the tongues of men. The first is that the tongues we hear in church vary greatly from one speaker to another. If they were speaking the one tongue of angels, they would sound alike. I acknowledge that this is a little speculative, but there is another reason that you mention in your analysis of this chapter. You have seen what I have seen, and what most pentecostals have missed. In 1 Cor 13:8-13 we read that "tongues, they will be stilled" when "perfection comes", that is, when we are glorified with Christ at his return. As you rightly point out, heavenly or angelic tongues will continue to be spoken, so the tongues Paul is talking about must be tongues of men!

As we seek to exercise greater discernment in relation to the gifts, and to better understand their significance, we do not need to make judgements about individual gifts or cause division. I too can gain much from charismatic services while "tuning out to the babel". And as I correspond with others through this web site, I become aware of instances of the gift of tongues that are clearly genuine.

I am excited that others like yourself, thoughtful people who have experienced something of the Spirit, are asking these sorts of questions. My hope is that we may even be on the verge of a breakthrough in our understanding of this gift that may help both evengelicals and charismatics come to a common biblical viewpoint.

I encourage you in your research and writing. Please feel free to use any of my material, provided there is an acknowledgement of the source at the end. I would like to read your essay when it is complete, and to hear any further insights you may have.

30 May 2003: Received from a troubled lady

Hi Alan, I just want to thank you for the reply to my email about gifts and tongues. I am the woman that began getting some revelations and visions the same evening as my baptism.

In your email, you mentioned how your pastor has a method he uses to discern spirits. I was wondering if you could give me more information on that. I do once in a while get " a word of knowledge" ( I think thats what it must be), and I beleive it is from the HOLY SPIRIT, usually I will get a word Ive never heard before , or dont know the meaning, and after I look it up in the dictionary I get the meaning. For instance, one day I kept hearing inside myself the word "apostasy" which I never saw or heard, and when I looked it up , it meant "false doctrine, or forsaking one's religion---- shortly after that I met a woman who invited me to a church that taught "false doctrine", they did not believe in the gifts of the HOLY SPIRIT--- so I was warned ahead of time.

The problem is sometimes, I will get a word--- and Im not sure if it is from the HOLY SPIRIT or another spirit----and eventually I do get the answer, but I was wondering how I could discern. For instance for the past few days, I have been ill, and I have been doubled over in pain. This is a condition I have had since I was 19 ( I am 34) I have been praying as to why I get these pains, since doctors have been unsucessful in diagnosing and treating it. So, for the past few days I have been getting a recurent word "anathema", which I never knew what it meant. Finally after 3 days, of this word--- being said inside me--- I looked it up and it meant "curse" as when you put a curse on something. I was wondering if someone put a curse on me, or for a sin I committed in the past-- I was cursed. But , I dont know if this word is coming from an evil spirit trying to trick me, and maybe even curse me--- or if the HOLY SPIRIT is showing how I should pray against this painful condition.

I appreciate your help. Thanks again----- GOD BLESS

My Reply:

First of all I would like to encourage you in your walk with God because I believe in your revelations, and that on the whole, what you are hearing is the Holy Spirit interacting with your own spirit, such that you are perceiving truths in the spiritual realm. There is a realm that is seen and a realm that is not seen (2 Cor 4:18), and once we are born of the Spirit we become aware of the latter.

But you are right in understanding the need for some "quality control", because things we think are from God can come from our souls, the thoughts and feelings of our earthly being. The ability to discern grows with experience, and you are certainly off to a good start.

You asked me about the discerning of spirits, and the information that follows is not meant to alarm you or be directed to your current ailment. Just take it on board, and let God build on it, because there will likely be a time in your life when it is valuable, if not for yourself, then in ministering to others.

The scriptural testing of spirits is based on their willingness, or refusal to confess Christ The key verses are 1 Cor 12:3 and 1 John 4:1-3. It is very important to understand that this is a testing of the spirit that is speaking, not the person from whom it speaks. Most churches do not make this distinction, and as a result their testing is ineffective. If we are testing the genuineness of gifts exercised by christians, then obviously if the person is asked about their faith in Christ, they will confess him. For the test to be effective, the person must be passive. They must not declare their own beliefs, but should allow their spiritual gift to operate by speaking in tongues, prophesying etc. The spirit giving the utterance is then commanded, on the authority of Jesus and the word of God, to declare whether or not Jesus is the Lord, the Son of God. The Holy Spirit is only too pleased to affirm this truth, but an evil spirit, when cornered, will always deny him.

It is not uncommon for the tested gift to be shown to come from an evil spirit, even when the person concerned is a model christian. If God promises to give us the Holy Spirit when we ask him (Luke 11), many wonder how an evil spirit could be present. I think the best answer is the one you suggested yourself. The Spirit distributes his gifts as he wills. If we are determined to have a gift that he has chosen not to give us, the way is left open for the enemy to offer a substitute.

While the testing of spirits was something my old pastor undertook rarely, I will share with you one example that has always stuck in my mind. A young woman came to him after attending a rally at a pentecostal church. She had received prayer for the baptism in the Spirit, the expected evidence of which was speaking in tongues. As hands were laid on her, she began to utter unkown sounds. She came to see my pastor to help her understand what she had experienced. It was a private meeting, so there were no other witnesses, but the incident had occured only days before, and I fully trust my pastor's word.

The woman willingly agreed to a test, and remained quite passive while my pastor directed questions at the spirit behind the gift. An evil spirit was quickly identified, speaking blasphemously in a low voice. When asked whether or not Jesus Christ was Lord, it initially tried to evade the question, but eventually denied Christ. The evil spirit was then commanded to leave the women, and as it left the whole church was filled with the smell of rotting human flesh. A chilling story, but one which should not blind us to the genuine work of the Spirit, but simply keep us on our guard. I believe we do need the special work of the Spirit in our lives as much as we need God's word, for Jesus said those who followed him would "worship in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24).

There are other practical means to discern whether a particular inner voice or word is from God or just from ourselves. It is particularly comforting to remember that spiritual gifts minister to the church, to the body of Christ. Therefore the counsel and experience of others is helpful, though not infallible (1 Cor 14:29). We also have Jesus' promise to the church that they can look to the Spirit to guide them into all truth (John 16:13), and that those that seek truth shall find it (Matt 7:7).

I am not an expert on spiritual gifts. I don't speak in toungues myself, though I believe I have other gifts, and I do have some experinece of the supernatural. I cannot say with confidence what the last word you received means in relation to your ailment. Be open to the possibilty of the enemy having a hand in it, but do not fear, for even if it were true, the Spirit of God within you is more powerful (1 John 4:4). I have seen some marvellous healings, and I expect you have to. We can trust God to provide for our needs, including the health we need in order to function and to fulfill his purposes. You are searching to know God better, and I hope these thoughts and scriptures are of some assistance.

Received from Andrew Ross, UK

Dear Sir, I am wondering what your research found. Is it possible to send me a summary or address of where i can find out more?

My Reply:

Thanks for your enquiry. I have been a member of various evangelical and pentecostal churches over the last 30 years, and I still have connections with both groups. I believe passionately that Jesus calls us to real unity (John 17:20-21), and to worship him "in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24). So I value gifts of the spirit, but only where they are genuine.

My view of the modern tongues phenomenon is consistent with my view of all miraculous phenomena in churches today. This view is more on my own experience than from books or research by others. I have never spoken in tongues myself, though when I was young it was something that I genuinely sought. I have heard tongues spoken every so often in church and in prayer groups. For the most part, my clear impression is that it does not sound like any language group I have ever heard (and in Sydney Australia we are exposed to most language groups).

I have always believed that the bible teaches that the gift of tongues expressed the gospel, or praise to God, or other revelation in a language of man unknown to the speaker (ie. a foreign language). The main passage indicating this is Acts 2:1-21, where Jews who had come to Jerusalem from various parts of the Roman Empire and Middle East, heard the disciples speaking in their native tongues. Another important passage is 1 Corinthians 14:10, where Paul says there are many tongues (languages) in the world, indicating that the ordinary gift of tongues is a foreign language unknown to the speaker, not an angelic tongue. When Christ's perfect kingdom comes, earthly languages "will be stilled" (1 Corinthians 13:8). Angelic tongues, if they exist, will still be spoken, at least by angels. I believe the explanation given by many pentecostals, that the gift is one of angelic tongues, is weak. I think they use this explanation, probably unconsciously, to ease their own doubts about whether what is spoken is really language at all.

In fact, the whole framework of pentecostal teaching on tongues and the baptism of the spirit is badly in need of overhaul. Paul asks "Do all speak in tongues?" (1 Corinthians 12:30). Clearly pentecostals have been wrong in teaching that it is a gift for all. In doing so, they have often taken believers' attention away from Christ. On the other hand, the answer to Paul's question is that some do speak in tongues, and evangelicals have been wrong in denying this. Paul commands that we "do not forbid speaking in tongues" (1 Corinthians 14:39). Many evangelical churches continue to forbid it in practice, even if there is no written prohibition.

In my essay I explain that I think the whole purpose of tongues in the first century was to emphasise that the gospel was not just for the Jews but for all nations. Paul was passionate about this, calling it "the mystery of Christ". The connection with tongues is not often made, but is supported the Pentecost account (Acts 2:1-41), the account of Peter and Cornelius (Acts 10:9-48), and later by Augustine. In these latter days, we are again seeing signs of Christ's coming kingdom. We are seeing biblical prophecy fulfilled at this very moment as Israel consolidates its hold over the land promised to Abraham and his descendents. Paul says this covenant is "irrevocable" (Romans 11:29), and so I look forward to the gospel soon bearing fruit among the Jews, just as it is currently in the process of being "preached in the whole world" (Matthew 24:14). I have just come back form a week long conference with healing evangelist Bob Brasset. I saw a near-blind woman see, a deaf woman hear, and several healed of cancerous growths. So while around the world there is much questionable "healing" (head-ache, back-ache, leg-lengthening, etc.), if one is seeking the truth with clear mind and an open heart, one can see that there are indeed miracles taking place, signs of God's love, signs of the coming return of Christ.

The gift of tongues over the past century, and the many healing ministries over that time, are all part of this picture. People can be mistaken about their healing, particularly for minor conditions. They can also be mistaken about tongues. Various authors I have read consider it to be largely an unconsciously learned phenomenon. This fits very much with what I have seen. People start by uttering the first few syllables that come to mind. They are enthused, and keep praying this way building up to perhaps 20 syllables after a few years. They can string these together in any combination without conscious effort. But for the most part, I don't believe it is a present or past foreign language. If it is interpreted, the prophetic message may or may not be from God. The tongue may or may not be real, but the message in English, spoken with understanding, is usually in line with scripture, and is often very appropriate. Perhaps I am being too skeptical here. While I am certain there is much that is not real, I would like the opportunity to investigate the experience of some friends more closely.

There are a few testimonies I have heard or read about gifts of tongues I believe to be genuine. The first woman to speak in tongues, a disciple of Charles Parham, probably had the genuine gift. She is reported as speaking In Farsi, the language of Iran, Afghanistan and part of Iraq. We might find it hard to see how the gospel will penetrate those countries, but the sign has been given, and there will be a harvest. There is another testimony recorded in "The Beauty of Spiritual Language", by Jack Hayford. It tells of a woman who responded to an invitation at an evangelistic rally. As she was prayed for, she had a vision of multitudes of Asian people in need of Christ. At the same time she started speaking in a language she did not know, which was confirmed by witnesses as Chinese. We are not told whether this was Cantonese or mandarin, but the experience was clearly a call to the that mission field, which the woman fulfilled.

An excellent book I would recommend, which I think gets the balance right, is "Empowered Evangelicals". There is a review on the Books page of my website. This has been a long reply, But I have enjoyed it. I have honest with you, not knowing your own position on this issue. I hope it at least has given you some food for thought. If you have found the either the essay or this reply helpful, I would encourage you to discuss the material with others in your church. If you have any further questions or comments, you are welcome to write again.

Andrew's Response:

Thank you for your extensive and thoughtful reply. I am 51, but 16 months into my first pastorate of an evangelical church that has traditionally been non-charismatic (my own sort of background). However over the past 10 years or so I have been exposed to Spring Harvest and have become mildly charismatic and therefore wanting to open up the poeple to the gifts etc.. Since being at my church I've been asked to pray for the sick in Sunday Services and that has moved me into thinking why we shouldn't be more NT in our approach on healing .....

Incidently there is a reference to a person speaking in classical Japanese tongue in a church in Oregon in "The Holy Spirit and you" by D and R Bennett (p95 in my copy). However it seems difficult to find verifiable examples of this. Thanks for your help God bless.

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