"Le Signal" CH-1326 - Juriens
TABLE OF CONTENTS
THE SEVENFOLD BLESSING OF THE SPIRIT
Writing a book on such a controversial subject as speaking in tongues is certainly not the best way to make friends. On the contrary, it is the surest method of losing some of them. In defending the truth, the apostle Paul took the risk of offending others. He said in Gal.1:10, "Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ". Nevertheless, may God keep us from cultivating the art of offending others. As Alexandre Vinet, the Swiss theologian once said, one must be charitable towards people but not towards ideas. The way that some people think, however, it seems that the truth itself upsets them. When Ralph Shallis wrote his book in French, The Gift of Speaking in Tongues, he did it with such love that he took no less than five pages to apologise for the truth he was going to discuss. No one has been as careful as he was to put on kid gloves, but even so, some have seen them as boxing gloves. Isnít there a popular adage that says that only the truth hurts? The Bible says, however, that "the wounds of a friend can be trusted" (Prov.27:6). It would be naive to believe that even the most brotherly attitude could prevent certain breaches of fellowship. My previous talks on the subject have gained me some solid and lasting enemies. Paul said in Gal.4:16 that he made enemies by telling the truth, and this, amongst his closest acquaintances, those he had brought to salvation, those who were his spiritual children.
The range of positions on this question is such that it would take several books, not just one, to cover all the nuances of the subject. Amongst those who are convinced supporters of the cause, one finds, in diminishing order of importance, those for whom speaking in tongues is:
On the opposite side, we find, also in decreasing importance, those for whom speaking in tongues is:a gross imitation that they denounce,
These two lists may appear incomplete, but they reveal a wide range of feelings and sensitivities. Classifying the protagonists in only two camps, one for, the other against, may seem simplistic, but we must do so for the readerís sake, to help his/her comprehension of the situation.
In order to give more weight to this study, I have given priority to the writings of present-day Pentecostal authors, and to the testimonies of others who, for doctrinal reasons, have left the movement. However, the main basis of this work is my own personal experience and that of my dear wife, to whom I dedicate this book. References to books and their authors will be found in the text. Therefore, I did not think it necessary to include a bibliography.
I have used the expression Pentecostalism, an expression to which I attach no deprecatory meaning at all, in order to indicate those who, to different degrees, subscribe to speaking in tongues. In the first twelve chapters of this book I make a distinction between them and the Catholic charismatics. Several conservative Pentecostals might, in effect, be shocked to be confused with these charismatics from whom they distance themselves so determinedly. Some will ask, "Why write such a book?" To them we would answer that many people have wanted a work of reference, detailed but not too scholarly, with a sense of direction, in which subjects are neatly compartmentalised, allowing one to find oneís bearings easily, so that they may know "how to give an answer to anyone", according to the exhortation of Col.4:6.
Others may ask, "Why an English translation of a French work? It is more common to find the opposite. Besides, havenít we reached a saturation point of books on this subject?"
We felt it would be useful to make this book known for three reasons. Firstly, it would be helpful for the Christians on this side of the Channel or the Atlantic to know that their French-speaking evangelical brethren face the same problems, the same struggles, and that they use the same spiritual weapons as their English counterpart. Secondly, the way of thinking, the mentality based on the French culture, and the, perhaps, unexpected side of the answers brought to this question, can be an enrichening enlightenment for the British/American reader. Thirdly, many missionaries working in France, when they had knowledge of this work, warmly recommended it, some feeling that it was the best book yet written on this subject. This explains why, outside of France, it has been published in German, Dutch, Roumanian, Hungarian, Croatian, Spanish and Arab; and why it is now in English on the Internet. My prayer to God for my readers is that they will have the same attitude as the Jews in the Greek town of Berea, "the Bereans were of more noble character... and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true"(Acts 17:11).
ANALYSIS OF THE CHARISMATIC RENEWAL
Charismatic Renewal in the Catholic Church is the title of a booklet written in French by D. Cormier and published in Canada at the end of the 70ís. It deals with the position of classic Pentecostalism at that time. We shall now summarise it, being careful not to distort the authorís intention.
If, in places, the strong language used offends someone, I hasten to point out that it comes from the original that we print in italics. My only contribution is the linking of the paragraphs. This book describes the distress of some sincere Catholics faced with the aridity of their church, their thirst for an authentic spiritual life, and their genuine search for the life of the Spirit, through meetings with several Pentecostal ministers and by reading David Wilkersonís book, The Cross and the Switchblade, as well as another Pentecostal book, They Speak in Other Tongues by J. L. Sherrill.
They persevered for more than a year, praying each day, saying, "Come, Holy Spirit..." This happened at Duquesne University in Pennsylvania. At South Bend, Indiana, the same search, the same expectation, was apparent on the part of the professors of theology at Saint Maryís College. There, they appealed to brother Ray Bullard, deacon of a neighbouring Pentecostal church and president of the local Full Gospel Businessmenís group. This man was held in high regard for his wide experience of spiritual gifts, and described as a humble man who only sought to be used by God. He became a kind of godfather to the charismatic community that came into being at Notre-Dame. For several months they met at Ray Bullardís house, where Pentecostal meetings were already being held and where several Pentecostal ministers were regularly invited to give talks and to answer questions raised by newcomers.
Then came the explosion. One weekend, numerous Catholic students were baptised in the Holy Spirit. News of this spread like wildfire. During one of these meetings at Ray Bullardís home, a Pentecostal ex-missionary asked, "Now that you have received the Holy Spirit, when are you thinking of leaving the Catholic Church?" Astonished, they replied, "but we have absolutely no intention of leaving the church"! The unanimous feeling of the classic Pentecostals at that time was that the Holy Spirit would sooner or later open the eyes of these Catholics. However, as time passed, it became evident that they had definitely decided to remain Catholic, and that the hierarchy was making use of the movement for the benefit of the Church of Rome. Five theories were put forth to explain the attitude of these Catholics who continued to follow the teachings and practices of their church whilst claiming to have received the Holy Spirit:
The author then further develops each of the above assumptions, bringing out the position still held today in Europe by some within historical Pentecostalism.
1. This movement is still in its infancy; the Catholics who are part of it will change later.
He notes that, contrary to popular expectations, the sign of tongues, the chief characteristic of the charismatic movement, brought back to Catholicism those who had fallen away, reviving their idolatrous practices. Some typical comments from Catholic charismatics illustrate this:
--"Our devotion to Mary was filled with sanctification."
--"The sacramental life of the church has become richer in meaning."
--"I came to a better understanding of the eucharist as a sacrifice, and I came back to frequent confession."
--"At that time I discovered a profound devotion to Mary."
Quoting Father OíConnor, he gives us a profession of charismatic faith that would make any Pentecostalist, evangelical or reformed Christian quake: "The first effects were a greater devotion to the Eucharist. The most striking result for one Benedictine, after his baptism in the Spirit, was to sing the mass. The veneration of Mary was reinforced by the pentecostal movement all over the country. In short, the effect of the Pentecostal movement was to recruit people for the church, for the priesthood and for religious life."
Given that the expected change did not occur, this first hypothesis can not be sustained as viable.
2. This movement is of the Spirit, but the Catholic hierarchy has been able to channel it to its own benefit.
The explanation given for this point is not quite as precise. Names are cited: Fathers Regimbald and OíConnor, as well as Cardinal Suenens, who all had a part in introducing the charismatic movement to the laity. The return to traditional devotions is not due to pressure from the leaders, but is the direct result of the charismatic experience.
Father McDonnel is quoted as saying: "The Catholic Pentecostals are committed to recovering and cultivating the forms of contact with God that they had abandoned. This does not come from a conservative theology, but rather from the transforming effect of their experience". (emphasis ours).
Whether or not the Roman Catholic leadership has something to do with the return to this paganism veneered with Christianity, the major cause (we are merely quoting) is the Pentecostal experience.
And so the second hypothesis falls through.
3. This movement is the fulfillment of the prophecy: "I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh", and demonstrates that the Holy Spirit is above our religious preconceptions and can save anyone, whatever their doctrine may be.
The answer to the question that follows has grave consequences. Is the spirit that is active in the Roman Church, the Holy Spirit? In speaking of Him, Jesus said, "He will guide you into all truth". This is the particular characteristic of the Holy Spirit. It is characteristic of an evil spirit to lead one into only part of the truth. Now, one of the most marked effects of the charismatic movement is to lead its followers into part-truth, part-error as, for example: spontaneous prayer AND the rosary; the adoration of Christ AND the Holy Sacrament; reading the Bible AND the veneration of Mary.
The brochure then presents several testimonies from people who had been baptised by the Holy Spirit, one whilst reciting his rosary, another whilst singing a hymn at mass, and yet another whilst on her knees praying to the Holy Virgin. These testimonies are quite sufficient to prove that the spirit who baptised these people is in contradiction with the Scriptures and cannot, in any way, be the Holy Spirit. Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit consists, not of doubting His work, but of attributing such error and such dreadful idolatry to His divine person.
Concurring with orthodox Pentecostalism, the author draws the following conclusion that we shall come back to later on, We live in a decidedly relativistic world... where one no longer believes in an absolute truth but in relative truths dependent upon human experience. More emphasis is thus placed on experience than on doctrine. Speaking in tongues, feeling a certain inner peace...or a love for God, Mary and the saints is more important than knowing sound doctrine. To quote Charles Foster, "When the experience of the Holy Spirit is put before doctrine and salvation, seduction is certain..." (emphasis added).
The third hypothesis cannot be retained.
4. This movement is simply an act to attract Protestants into the trap of ecumenism.
Acknowledging that without the contribution of Pentecostalism the charismatic movement could never have taken root in the Catholic Church, D. Cormier admits the danger of ecumenism and adds, It is sad to note that several evangelical Christians, as well as numerous Protestants, have not seen the trap. There is abundant proof that the charismatic movement serves the interest of Rome and ecumenism, but we must discard the hypothesis that it would be simply an act to attract Protestants into the snare of profligate ecumenism. The healings, prophecies and miracles seen in the charismatic movement rule out the possibility that it is only a human manoeuvre... If the Holy Spirit cannot be behind this movement, it is certainly a real and active spiritÖand it is the supernatural phenomena that have caused this movement to develop with such rapidity and vigour. (emphasis added).
So, if the movement is not the direct result of human calculation, but the product of an alien spirit, then the fourth hypothesis cannot be retained either. This leaves only the fifth, which we now consider.
5. This movement is a counterfeit tactic of the devil, preparing the way for the Antichrist.
One cannot reproduce the text in full, but the following resume presents the main ideas.
At Duquesne University, the baptism by the Holy Spirit of about thirty students was soon followed by several public supernatural healings. Observers were most impressed by the prophetic manifestations in tongues and their interpretations. K. and D. Ranaghan recount in their book "The Return of the Spirit", during one prayer meeting at South Bend, a priest who was present for the first time, asked a man near him where he had learned Greek. "What Greek?" The priest then told the group that he had distinctly heard his neighbour recite the first sentences of "Ave Maria" in Greek. Father OíConnor adds in his book, "Before this meeting, there was very little evidence in the group of the worship of Mary... from then on, there was an outburst of devotion to Mary." For these Catholics, the different miracles and manifestations concerning Mary are the infallible proofs of the presence of God in their church.
D. Cormier responds by writing that the Bible warns us to be on guard against counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders (II Thess 2:9-12).
So, having discarded the first four hypotheses, we are led to admit that this final supposition is accurate. The condemnation of the charismatic revival is clear-cut and irrevocable. It is, the author says, the cross-breeding of protestant Pentecostalism and Catholic idolatry. Remember that I have contributed nothing to this analysis. It is for this reason that I have taken care to put the original text in italics.
Are these conclusions also my own? Allow me to reserve my reply for later because, blunt though it may appear, the fifth conclusion is still held by some European Pentecostals. If we have condensed this explosive article on the charismatics, it is because one finds with them, as with Pentecostals, the threefold idea of tongues, signs and baptism of the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, as this analysis clearly brings out, the (still) classic Pentecostals deny that these signs all have the same origin. If they are so sure of that, why are they so upset to be the initiators of this error, which they qualify as diabolic. We quote again, "Ray Bullard, deacon of a Pentecostal church, possessing a wide experience of spiritual gifts... and several Pentecostal ministers..." They are the ones who taught, prayed and laid on hands in order that these Catholics might receive the Holy Spirit. Could an unclean spirit possibly have been passed on to these people from the hands of Pentecostals of sound doctrine?! This idea is profoundly disturbing, especially when they are obliged to acknowledge that "IF IT HAD NOT BEEN FOR RAY BULLARD, THE PENTECOSTAL DEACON... THIS MOVEMENT WOULD NEVER HAVE SEEN THE LIGHT OF DAY" (page 15, emphasis ours).
Now, behind the elders who placed their hands on Timothy, there was nothing other than what this young man received: the gift of God (II Tim.1:6). And behind the hands Ananias placed upon Saul of Tarsus, there was none other than the Holy Spirit. And when this same Saul of Tarsus, who became the apostle Paul, laid his hands upon the disciples of John the Baptist at Ephesus, they received no other spirit than that which inhabited Paul, that is, the true Spirit. If then it was a diabolical spirit that these sincere Catholics received from the hands of these experienced specialists (Ray Bullard and his associated Pentecostal ministers), it means that behind their hands and their prayers, there was something that they subsequently deplored; that is, something very different from the Holy Spirit. Jesus said it in a way that is impossible to misunderstand, "A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit" (Matt.7:18). If the fruit, by their own admission, is declared bad, isnít it because the tree is bad? It seems that our Pentecostal friends fail to understand this line of thought. When one points out to them the peculiarities with which their movement is afflicted, that it is something completely different from the Holy Spirit that produces this uncontrollable gibberish and the eccentric behaviour such as screaming, wailing, falling backwards, etc., their standard reply is to quote Jesus, "Which of you fathers, if your son asks for bread will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" (Luke 11:11 - 13).
But isnít that a boomerang-argument? Because in coming to Ray Bullard and the Pentecostal ministers, these Catholics did not ask for a stone, or a snake, or a scorpion; nevertheless that is what they would have received. Now, these friends bitterly regret having prayed for and laid hands on these Catholics who have, according to Pentecostal testimony, received an alien spirit as a result. What they should be worrying about, above all, is not what these Catholics have received, but rather what was transmitted to them. Would it not be the height of folly to hear a husband complain, or become indignant, about the AIDS that his wife contracted from himself. His analysis of his partnerís illness would perhaps be correct, but accusing her of contracting the wrong AIDS, whilst asserting that his is the correct one, should make us think seriously about the comparison that can be made. I am entirely of the conservative Pentecostalsí opinion when they say the virus caught by the charismatics is bad because it is unbiblical, but when one knows, according to their own confession, where the Catholics caught it, and from whom they caught it, the Pentecostals should be the first to ask themselves the following questions, "What if ours were the same Ďbaptism of the Spirití? What if we had the same Ďspeaking in tonguesí?"
A MESSAGE TO MEN?
All through this study, we shall keep in mind the excellent principle developed by D. Cormier in chapter 1, "The spirit that is in contradiction with the Scriptures cannot be the Holy Spirit". This has allowed conservative Pentecostalism to flush out the serious errors of their fellow charismatics and to conclude, "Supernatural manifestations (among the charismatics) are a sign telling them that they have nothing to fear, that they are on the right road when, in fact, they are walking in error... These manifestations themselves are more or less reproductions of those we find in the New Testament. That is why one can rightly speak of counterfeit". (Analysis of the Charismatic Renewal, page 14). One can only applaud this biblical perspicacity, provided that one does not limit its application to others. For, if our Pentecostal friends were to scrutinise their own doctrine with even half the rigour that they use towards the charismatics, they would see, as they so well say, that "believing that one is on the right road because of signs, miracles and speaking in tongues" is also the essence of their own belief, their own strength and their own sense of security. For example, when the rapid growth of the movement they condemn is attributed to spiritual manifestations, are these not precisely the same spiritual manifestations that they themselves boast of or use as their authority to explain and justify the fact that they are growing more quickly than other evangelicals? "But WE are biblical!" we hear them say, "OUR practices conform to the scriptural model!" This is what we shall begin to examine in this second chapter.
What do we read in the Bible concerning the true exercise of speaking in tongues? "For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God" (I Cor.14:2). This is what Paul, the greatest teacher of the church, moreover, led by the Spirit, clearly taught the Corinthians, "... he does not speak to men..." This verse alone is enough to destabilise all that is specific to the Pentecostal movement and shake it right down to its foundations. The Holy Spirit Himself, Whom we cannot resist without suffering the consequences, states that it was not to men that the words spoken in tongues were addressed but to God. The Bereans (Acts 17:11) examined the Scriptures daily in order to see if what they were being told was correct. For us today, nothing would be easier than to examine these same Scriptures to find out if what the Pentecostal movement says on this subject is correct. After more than thirty years of close contact with these churches, and after having accepted some of their ideas, I have been forced to admit that there is a glaring discordance with the Word of God on this point.
I, first of all, capitulated before the authority of the Scriptures; I then proceeded to verify for myself what was being taught and practised. On several occasions, talking to people who were deeply anchored in their convictions, I asked the question, "When tongues are interpreted in your assembly, what is the content of the message?" I did not enquire because I did not know the answer, but I wanted to hear it straight from the horseís mouth, so leaving no place for ambiguity. Without exception, the replies always confirmed what I had already observed. It was a word of encouragement, or prophecy, or exhortation, or even of evangelisation. Quite clearly, these were addressed to those present, that is, to men and was therefore in complete contradiction with the Holy Spirit who said just the opposite, "...he does not speak to men". This is just as antibiblical as speaking to Mary. In short, the exercise of a gift that does not conform to Scripture cannot come from the Holy Spirit but rather, as they rightly say about their fellow charismatics, from an alien spirit. After having heard the replies that I have just mentioned, I showed these people what the Bible said. Some of them were devastated by the crystal-clear words that they had never seen before, or that had always been kept from them. The most perceptive amongst them realised in an instant the scale of the doctrinal disaster that had overtaken them: a true Waterloo.
Prevented from Seeing
In many other cases, on the contrary, I noted what seemed to be a complete inability to comprehend the meaning of the Scriptures that is nevertheless clear, "...anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men". It is as though a veil had come down over their intelligence. They said, "But of course, thatís it!" whilst being unable to see that their "that" was not at all "it", but quite the contrary. To start with, there was no attempt to evade the issue, but an inability to see. They read "he does not speak to men" but they appear to understand the opposite, some going so far as to say, "How else would God speak TO US?"
One of my friends, an enthusiastic pastor, invited me for a Gospel campaign in his church. He told me about a lady who, in a private talk with him, had spoken in tongues. "In what she said", he explained, "I discerned a message for myself". The opportunity was ideal. I simply asked him, "How do you reconcile the idea of a message addressed to you personally with the biblical statement that Ď...for anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to Godí? You are not God!" It was like hitting him over the head. He was totally speechless. He had just discovered a text that he had never seen before, or that he had not taken the time to examine. He looked so pitiful that I felt sorry for him. I did not tell him that these tongues addressed to men smacked of heresy. I did not tell him either that it was a trick or a hoax. No, I let him work it out for himself to discover that he was up against an obvious spiritual fallacy.
My most recent discussion on the subject clearly illustrates this blindness. I realised that quoting the text verbally was not enough. The person I was speaking to was following his own train of thought and was impervious to the Word of God. I sat down beside him with my Bible open, and had him read the text out loud. No reaction. I repeated the exercise at least five times. Suddenly the penny dropped. He understood what the passage said. It was then that his real problem started. He began to measure the full impact of this truth that had just smashed his beliefs like the iceberg in the side of the Titanic, sending her to the bottom of the ocean. Poor fellow, he had a head-on collision with a Bible teaching that was the opposite of what he thought he knew so well. In order to get out of this awkward situation, he had nothing to offer me but the quicksand of his experiences.
In my first book on speaking in tongues, I reported the confrontation that took place between a brother of the Brethren Assemblies and my neighbour, a Pentecostal minister. The latter was not up to the task. Forced to recognise that his adversary was right, he closed his Bible, pushed it to one side and said, "Biblically you are right but I cannot deny an experience!" This gesture and his words said it all: the Bible put to one side and experience put to the fore. Thirty years later, nothing seems to have changed. The last interview previously mentioned, finished in the same way as the first. After having once more pointed out that the speaking in tongues in his church, as corroborated by his personal experience and observations, was obviously addressed to men, and that it was contrary to what the Bible says, I asked him, "What will you put aside, the Word of God or your experiences; you must make a choice between the two; which will it be?" Without hesitation and twice in succession, his reply was, "I choose experience!" Understandable but wretched obstinacy that is explained by the terrible confession of a pastor who said to me on this particular point of doctrine, "When this word of Paul began to circulate in our assemblies, it had the effect of a bomb. We could not allow it to continue, because we would have had to admit that EVERYTHING DONE UP UNTIL THEN WAS FALSE!"
Of course it is false, but one tries to ensure that no one knows. And how is this achieved? In one of four ways:
1. By placing an inordinate value on experiences. For example:
-- a prophecy about me, spoken in tongues, came true,
-- an exhortation given in tongues corresponds to the state of the church,
-- once when the translator didnít show up, a preacher continued in the local language that he did not know (a very well-worn but always unverifiable anecdote),
-- a recovery announced in tongues came true,- a pressing need was revealed in tongues and a suitable solution was provided, etc.
The source of such stories is inexhaustible. Told with great assurance, they condition the hearers, particularly new converts, to the point where they are fore-armed against all possible later discovery of the truth. We shall develop the subject of experiences in greater detail in chapter 12.
2. The second method is to edit the text, as this pastor said, throwing away ideas that are too disturbing. That is what the rabbis do with the 53rd chapter of Isaiah during the systematic reading of the Law and the prophets in the synagogues. When they come to the end of Isaiah 52, they jump to Isaiah 54! I can testify that in more than thirty years of contacts, interviews, debates, friendly discussions and collaboration with those concerned, this text has always been carefully avoided. In the book Twenty-one Reasons for Speaking in Tongue", Gordon Lindsay gives as his eleventh reason that it is to speak to God, and simply evades the embarrassing "he does not speak to men". This "silence" strengthens the impression that one is the equivalent of the other.
3. The third method is to shrug oneís shoulders and to treat the matter as being of little consequence, with a broad-minded attitude that transforms the Holy Spirit into a weathercock. "Of course the Bible says that, but who can fathom the purposes of God? Is He not sovereign? Can He not make use of His gifts as He desires?" One can see where this would lead: to all the heresies in the world, to give the floor to the Deceiver and in particular, to his first suggestion in Genesis, "Did God really say that?" All the ills of humanity started there. I am suspicious of an excessively broad-minded view of the sovereignty of God that takes away all sovereignty from His Word. Because, if the unfathomable riches of His love and wisdom could produce tongues that speak to men, they could also have given us a Queen of Heaven, a co-redeemer, a heaven to be earned and a string of saints to call upon.
4. The fourth method is to find an answer at any cost; to dive into the Bible in search of a word or a reference that puts the Holy Spirit in conflict with Himself, in order to breathe more easily. Everyone knows that with this game, one can make the Bible say anything one wishes. In fact, nearly all heresies have found their origin in the Bible. At the risk of exposing ourselves to ruin by distorting the meaning of the Scriptures, as it says in II Peter 3:16, which text shall we seize upon to make the Word say the opposite of what it says? Some people believe they have found one in I Cor.14:21, "Through men of strange tongues... I will speak to this people". If God uses tongues to speak to this people, then it follows that he uses them to speak to men. Note firstly that if that is the right meaning to give to these words, then the contradiction between the two verses would be total.
Let us clarify. It is evident that all signs, whatever they might be, speak to men. Coming from God, they cannot be a sign to God. It is, according to Heb.1:1, one of the "various ways" used by God to speak to us. This he did in John 17 where we find what has been rightly called the high-priestly prayer. In the first place, Jesus is addressing His Father only. But at a second level, without specifically addressing us, it is indeed to us that He is speaking. This prayer to His Father speaks to us of His petitions, of His intimate feelings, of His personal character, of His intercession for us and, above all, of Himself as our great High Priest. And so it was for these foreign tongues. By allowing them to be addressed to Him miraculously, it was Godís way of telling THIS PEOPLE of Israel that foreigners, and the languages they speak, had henceforth the same access as they did to the God of Israel. This is what the sign communicated to them without, however, actually addressing them verbally. This is what Peter explains so masterfully in his memorable sermon on the day of Pentecost. To their question, "What does this speaking in foreign tongues mean?" he gives Godís reply, "I will pour out my Spirit on ALL PEOPLE", that is, on all languages, all peoples, all tribes and all nations.
It would not be superfluous to recall first of all that, contrary to what certain people might think, the great crowd of people assembled that day was not made up of pagans, strangers or internationals (Gentiles or Goyim as one refers to them elsewhere), but of JEWS who had come to Jerusalem from fifteen different foreign countries. Do you have your Bible open before you?
Turn to Acts 2 and read verse 5, "Now there were staying in Jerusalem who?... pagans?!... no, JEWS, God-fearing men, from every nation under heaven."
Go on to verse 14, Then Peter stood up with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd, "Fellow foreigners?!... no, fellow JEWS".
Look at verse 22. Peter continuing to speak to the crowd, adds this precision, "Men of ISRAEL..."
A little further on, in verse 29, he uses the term, "brothers", an appellation that leaves no doubt as to their identity.
And finally, in verse 37, the people making up the crowd who heard him returned the compliment to the JEWISH apostles in these words, "BROTHERS, what shall we do?"
Besides the fact that the Word of God is very clear and that this is repeated five times, it follows quite logically that only those God-fearing Jews, coming from great distances and at their own expense, would journey to the Jewsí great annual feast day of Pentecost at Jerusalem. It would only have been of interest to them and to the proselytes converted to Judaism. One does not see great crowds of Frenchmen travelling to England for the 5th of November every year to set off firecrackers on Guy Fawks Day. Neither do the English travel to Paris for the fete nationale on July 14th, not any more that we see Europeans crossing the Atlantic just to celebrate Independence Day in the United States. In the same way Pentecost was at that time a feast day solely Jewish and reserved for Jews. Thus the crowd in Jerusalem that day was made up of Jews who spoke Aramaic, and who all understood what Peter preached to them in this language (his as well as theirs), without the necessity to speak the fifteen other languages.
The only thing left now is for us to verify what the Scriptures say about each occasion where speaking in tongues is reported. We shall call upon the best Pentecostal writers, quoting their writings, to prove that in no case was there ever a single word addressed to men, even though the sign was intended for them. Donald Gee writes, "Our information concerning the manifestation shown to believers when they are baptised in the Spirit, is strictly limited to the cases recounted in Acts" (Glossolalia, page 101). This means that he does not wish to take into account any experience other than those contained in the Word of God.
I. In Acts 2, it is said that the people heard them "speak of the wonders of God" in many real and contemporary languages. Many have wrongly believed that what was referred to here was the salvation of three thousand souls due to the preaching of the Gospel in tongues. Even a rapid survey of this chapter shows that the tongues used on that day simply caused people to ask questions. It was Peterís preaching, which was not in tongues, that brought the crowd to salvation. Donald Gee was unquestionably a leading thinker among the Pentecostals. He tried to put some order into the ideas of the movement and to establish for it the least bit of a coherent doctrine. For the moderates, he was the most listened-to of his generation. In his book Spiritual Gifts, this is what he says about the tongues spoken at Pentecost, "On the day of Pentecost, they all spoke in tongues before the crowd assembled. The crowd ran to see what all the noise was about. They found the disciples speaking of the wonders of God in their own dialects. It is clear that this crowd heard words THAT WERE NOT ADDRESSED TO THEM (emphasis added). When it was time to preach, it was Peter, and Peter alone, who spoke to the crowd whilst the eleven remained with him. He used a language common to all so that everyone would understand him... Thus the erroneous and time-honoured assertion that the gift was for the preaching of the Gospel to the Gentiles is refuted."
Dennis Bennett is renowned for his writings in Pentecostal circles. Here is what he says on the same subject, "It is surprising to note how many Christians, even those who are well-grounded, think that the languages spoken at Pentecost were given to proclaim the Gospel in the languages of the people who were listening, because they came Ďfrom every nation under heavení. In fact this passage states, ĎNow there were staying in Jerusalem JEWS from all nations...í It was simply Jews who lived in other countries and who had travelled up to Jerusalem for the feast. There was no need for foreign languages. What they heard was not a proclamation of the Gospel but the first Christians PRAISING AND GLORIFYING God for the wonders He had done" (v.11).
Coming from men so well-thought-of, these testimonies on this specific point are decisive and we record our agreement with them: what was spoken in tongues was not addressed to men but to God.
II. The second account appeared at the conversion of the centurion Cornelius and all his household. (Acts 10). The nature of this glossolalia is identical to the first because Peter refers to it when he told the apostles at Jerusalem, "... the Holy Spirit came on them just as He had come on us at the beginning", and he adds this detail, "God gave them the same gift as He gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ". (Acts 11:15-17). There is nothing addressed to men here either; on the contrary, they heard them "... praising God".
III. The third and last mention of tongues in Acts 19:6 (the conversion of the twelve disciples of John the Baptist) does not tell us anything more.
IV. The fourth proof is found in the verses that serve as a basis for this study - chapter 14 of First Corinthians. How does Paul see the matter? He sees nothing but praying, singing and giving thanks in tongues (verses 15 and 16). Nothing but prayer and praise appears in his teaching on tongues. Unquestionably, prayers and praises can only be addressed to God, and one can, therefore, never expect to find in them a message addressed to men.
V. The fifth proof is in the key verse of this chapter. It carries with it its own conclusion, "For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God" (I Cor.14:2). On such an important point, the Pentecostal practice is already completely out of line with the truth. It is at least as false as the glossolalia of their charismatic twins. We have read it, "...an experience, theí baptism of the Holy Spirití that lures souls to practise the contrary of what the Scriptures say, is not of the Holy Spirit." If the keystone of a vault is loosened, the whole structure breaks down ipso-facto. In the same way, this first error on the subject of tongues brings down the entire system (*1) at a single stroke. "Like a high wall, cracked and bulging, that collapses suddenly in an instant, it will break in pieces like pottery, shattered so mercilessly that among its pieces not a fragment will be found for taking coals from a hearth or scooping water out of a cistern" (Isaiah 30:13-14).
It is not superfluous to recall the remark quoted above, "When Paulís word (Önot to men) began to circulate in our assemblies, it had the effect of a bomb. The conclusion was not followed up because we would have had to admit that EVERYTHING THAT HAD BEEN DONE UP TO THEN WAS FALSE!"
If, for our conservative Pentecostal friends, the gift that they have passed on to others smacks of heresy, we also come to the incontrovertible evidence that their own glossolalia is also unscriptural and of the same kind as that which they have passed on to the Catholic charismatics by the laying on of their hands.
Papering over the cracks
Before moving on to the next error, one cannot but say a word about some Pentecostal churches that have done an about-face on this point. In their meetings, the practice of tongues continues but, on demand, the interpretation is limited to praise or prayer. What must we think of that? Does it mean a courageous return to the truth? At this early stage of our study, the answer would be incomplete to the point of appearing biased. The following chapters will show us other aspects of this subject, which they voluntarily ignore, that will allow us to give a definitive opinion. However, we are already obliged to notice that where things have seemingly been put right, it is only the interpretation that has been changed. Speaking in tongues itself remains the same as it was before. These are the same people, the same peculiar utterances, the same intonation, and above all, something we shall come back to, the same unacceptable difference between the length of the statement in tongues and the length of its interpretation. In fact, it is like a faulty production line for motor cars where, without rectifying the faults, one has decided to change the final coat of paint. Varnished in this way, this "new" generation of tongues appears somewhat more biblical at the end of the production line but remains underneath as far removed from the Bible and as faulty as the other. The spirit that inspires it is the same. Its final interpretation (discussed in chapter 6) subjected like the previous one to the apostolic teaching or to simple impartial and objective observation, will adequately demonstrate in which category it must be classified.
In 1990 in one of those churches I was the guest speaker for an evangelistic campaign. A few years prior to this they had broken away from the Assemblies of God on grounds of prevailing worldliness and excesses of all sorts in the realm of spiritual gifts. They had understood that, according to I Cor.14:2, a gift of interpretation that conveyed a message to men (and it was nearly always the case) was not of the Holy Spirit. So, that type of interpretation was abandoned, even condemned, and compulsorily replaced by words of prayer or praise to God. They had become very friendly towards non-charismatics and somewhat quieter in their gatherings. Yet, that Sunday morning when I was there, during the worship service, a woman suddenly burst out in tongues, at first on a plaintive mode, then picking up speed it ended up in a high-pitched out-pouring. She kept repeating "Ding-a-ding-a-doo", 20, 30 times or more. This was followed by an interpretation that was a comparatively bland exhortation about the communion service. After the meeting, outside the sanctuary, my wife and I looked at each other and burst out laughing (actually we should have wept) as, spontaneously, at the very same moment, we both exclaimed, "Les Cloches de Corneville!" (*2) A few minutes later, the pastor joined us, in obvious consternation, not because of the odd speaking in tongues, which he did not seem to question, but because of the complementary miracle of interpretation that had turned out to be a message to men instead of being a word directed to God as the Holy Spirit teaches. He said to us, "We must excuse this brother, heís left the Assemblies of God recently and he hasnít worked things out properly yet". Was it not rather the so-called "Spirit" who inspired these two people who was not working things out properly? My pointing this out to him added even more to his dismay. Where was the true Holy Spirit in all this? That evening we parted, apparently on good terms, but he never invited me again to his church.
(*1) Our reference to the "system" in this context applies only to our Pentecostal brothers' teaching concerning the gift of tongues. No jugement is intended against their fundamentalist position which, in any case, we share. We do not contest their often faithful preaching of the Gospel, nor the sincerity of a number of them, nor their zeal, nor their distinction as children of God.
(*2)"The Bells of Corneville", a well-known French operetta where the chorus repeats at length the famous "Ding, ding, dong".
A SIGN FOR BELIEVERS?
We saw in the previous chapter that if the sign of speaking in tongues attracted the attention of men, the actual verbal content was not addressed to men, but to God alone. The gift was therefore limited to praise or prayer.
We will now tackle another practical aspect of the question, found extensively in Pentecostalism, which we will confront with the Scriptures. My long experience of nearly the whole range of Pentecostalism enables me to speak with knowledge of the facts.
We must never lose sight of the fact that speaking in tongues WAS A SIGN. When one asks, "For whom is the sign destined today?", invariably, the first response is always, "It is the indisputable or evident sign of the baptism of the Spirit; it is the proof that the believer has entered into a second experience in the Christian life that will give him access to the gifts of the Spirit, by beginning with the least of them, speaking in tongues". This sign will therefore confirm to him, the believer, as well as to his congregation composed of believers, that he has a "plus" in his spiritual life. Seen from this angle, it is a sign for believers. But this is not all, for this sign will prove useful to him on other occasions.
Example 1. A man who was still a young convert had this second spiritual experience. Under pressure caused by a very difficult family situation, his first love for the Lord grew cold and he lost all contact with his assembly. He was haunted in his heart by the fear of being rejected by God. From time to time he tried to speak in tongues and since it worked, this caused him much comfort. (Already we can see that for him, speaking in tongues was taking the place of faith which is "being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see" - Heb.1:1) According to him, this gift saved him from committing suicide. It showed him that he, the believer, was still in the faith. In fact he was using the gift to give himself a sign. It was thus a sign for a believer such as he was.
Example 2. Then there was a Christian who was experiencing many difficulties: poor health, misfortunes and spiritual attacks in his family. His faith was enormously shaken. What kept him going, according to him, was his daily praying in tongues. How can we fail to see that, here too, it is the sign that replaces faith, whereas Johnís epistle says, "this is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith" (I Jn.5:4). Once again the sign was addressed to a believer.
Example 3. Sin had settled in the life of yet another man. He was conscious of it but happy to live with it. He used his gift of tongues to assess himself and after successfully speaking in tongues heaved a sigh of relief, "If the Spirit continues to express Himself through me, that means that He does not disapprove of me, at least not enough to remove His words from my mouth". What is striking here, is that self-judgement in the light of the Word of God (I Cor.11: 28, 31) is replaced by a sign which, for this believer, lends credibility to something that the Bible clearly condemns.
These three examples are only samples that demonstrate that the whole teaching and practice of the Pentecostals on this point revolves around a sign that God has supposedly given for believers and their private use. What does Scripture say about this? It teaches precisely the opposite, "TONGUES ARE NOT A SIGN FOR BELIEVERS BUT FOR NON-BELIEVERS" (I Cor.14:22). The contradiction is total and it is this doctrine that once more is at fault. How many times have believers rejoiced with other believers over receiving this sign. How many times have I been told and re-told (and nothing else on this point was ever said to me) that speaking in tongues was the first sign for the believer, evidence of his baptism in the Spirit. But the Holy Spirit Himself categorically dismisses such a thing when He tells us that it was "A SIGN FOR NON-BELIEVERS".
A fourth example will serve to complete the first three. A certain brother practises tongues in private, a subject that we will discuss in detail in chapter 7. The good he claims this does him can in no way cancel out the obligation, imposed by the Holy Spirit, to use the gift for its rightful purpose, namely, to serve as a sign for non-believers. But where are the unbelievers when he only practises the sign for himself before God? In the same way, if an evangelist, who also has a charisma meant for another category of unbelievers, practised his gift in private, with only himself as an audience, at the time of the invitation to salvation he would only be giving a sign to himself as a believer and thus, be missing the goal. In the same way, in the case of the charisma of speaking in tongues, the Holy Spirit could not speak more clearly. The goal is to reach not believers but unbelievers. Allow us to make our position clear; we do not doubt the scriptural baptism of the Holy Spirit or the historical reality of speaking in tongues. We simply ask a double question: 1) What spirit inspires those who attribute a role to tongues that is categorically refuted by the true Holy Spirit? 2) What spirit could they have been baptised in, those who hide the shining truth of I Cor.14:22 under a bushel? And why do they feel extremely awkward as soon as you make the remark to them? And count yourself happy if you do not come across an extremist who is offended because you believe what the true Holy Spirit has said, and who accuses you of sinning against Him. Let us conclude with an illustration: if a bridge were supported by ten pillars, how unsafe it would be if even two of them were missing! We have just witnessed the collapse of two pillars of Pentecostal doctrine: a) words in tongues addressed to men and b) a sign for believers.
The Unbelieversí Identity
Having discovered that, contrary to the quasi-universal belief and to the practice of many, the sign of tongues was not addressed to believers but to unbelievers, we have yet to find out the exact identity of these "unbelievers". Let us see in what situations the sign was practised in order to discover who they were.
I. Whom do we meet at Pentecost in Jerusalem, in Acts 2? A crowd of God-fearing Jews "from every nation under heaven". These people cannot be called atheists; their piety and religious fervour had driven them to make the long, difficult and expensive journey that brought them out of their respective countries up to Jerusalem for the great religious festival. If they were incredulous, it was certainly not along the lines of atheism, or scepticism, or indifference. It is not in this area that we will find their unbelief.
II. In Acts 8, in the narrative of the conversion of the Samaritans, some people think that, although there is no mention of it, tongues are implied here. We would be hard-pressed to find any atheists or agnostics here, since these people also believed in the Lord Jesus. There must be an underlying incredulity somewhere that would justify the appearance of the sign.
III. In Acts 10, the first Gentiles are converted in Corneliusí house. The sign appears here as well, but where are the unbelievers? The apostle Peter, who witnesses the phenomenon, is a believer, unless he has kept hidden in his heart a little corner of unbelief. What kind of unbelief? A latent incredulity can often be found hidden away in the heart of a believer, without having to classify him with the lost. It was Thomas the believer that the Lord accused of a particular type of unbelief (Jn.20:27). Was it not a whole nation of believers who did not enter the Promised Land due to a certain form of unbelief? (Heb.3:19). In Mark 9:19, Jesus again has to say to His disciples: "O unbelieving generation, how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?" And more than once in our lives, have we not all prayed the words of the father whose child could not be cured by the disciples, "I do believe, Lord, help me overcome my unbelief" (v.24)?
IV. In Acts 11, Peter informs the apostles in Jerusalem that tongues were spoken in the house of Cornelius. Clearly, the apostles are not unbelievers, unless they are also harbouring some latent streak of unbelief that remains to be identified.
V. In Acts 19, some Jewish disciples of John are converted to Christ and the sign, once again, appears. Here we find no more trace than elsewhere of any visible unbelief, in any case, not as we understand the term today. Yet, in all these instances, a sizeable element of unbelief is present since the Holy Spirit counteracts it with the relevant sign. We do not need to look very far to flush it out. I Cor.14:21 gives us the answer,"... I will speak TO THIS PEOPLE". It is worth noting that wherever the sign appears, it is always in the presence of JEWS, and where we do not find Jews, as in Athens or in Malta, neither do we find the sign.
We just have to discover the specific unbelief that was common to them all. No need to call on Sherlock Holmes or Colombo. As long as we know what kind of mentality inspired the Jews (converted or unconverted), we have the vital thread that will take us straight to the solution. IT IS IN THE VERY NATURE OF THE SIGN THAT WE FIND THE NATURE OF THEIR UNBELIEF. The sign consisted of foreign languages; thus it concerned languages that were foreign to Aramaic; in other words, the sign pointed to people who were foreigners to the Jews. The sign denounced or corrected their lack of faith concerning the salvation of those who spoke languages that were foreign to their own, that is, the Gentiles. The sign of tongues was appropriate at the extraordinary event of Pentecost: the entering of people of foreign languages into the Church that was born that day. Speaking in tongues was the proclamation of that great and novel truth in the form of a sign. On that day, God inaugurated a new people, a new body composed of people who spoke Hebrew as well as people who spoke languages other than Hebrew. Jews and pagans were to be given a new spiritual identity: the Church, the body of Christ, in which there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian or Scythian (Col.3:11). But this was precisely what the Jews did not want to believe. On the contrary, they were "... hostile to all men, in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved" (I Thess.2:16). C.I. Scofield writes in his Bible notes on Eph.3:6, "The divine intention was to make a new entity out of the non-Jews: the Church constituting the body of Christ formed by the baptism of the Holy Spirit that destroys any distinction between Jews and non-Jews..." The idea of now being made one with foreigners was more than the first-century Jews could stand. The thought alone was enough to fire up their Hebrew atavism. Yet that was the first thing they had to understand and finally admit. So God gave them the best sign possible to make them understand what they could not or would not believe; He miraculously made Jews speak in the languages of foreigners. In so doing, God put Jewish adoration into these pagan tongues.
The Analogy of Faith
If, having reached this point, the demonstration seems biblically unsubstantial to some, we need simply to add to it what Calvin called "the analogy of faith", in other words, a global view of the Word of God. It is dangerous to know a doctrine merely in snatches, or by hearsay, or through experiences that supposedly back it up. I have noticed on more than one occasion that the meaning of some verses, and even whole paragraphs, plainly translated in our everyday language, can escape us. A simple but attentive reading of the Bible reveals the scenario of fierce Jewish opposition towards everything that was not specifically Jewish.
We see Jonah who hates the men of Nineveh to the point of disobeying God. He runs away to Tarshish rather than to announce salvation to them. He struggles against God and openly wishes the destruction of the huge Assyrian metropolis. For him, Yahveh was the God of Israel and no one else, at least not of this foreign-speaking nation. In his frustration he goes as far as asking for his own death. If Nineveh lives, may Jonah die! He reproaches God for that which is His glory: to be the Saviour of men of all languages, tribes, peoples and nations. This spirit of opposition and unbelief will only be reinforced over the centuries. The Jews belong to Yahveh and Yahveh to them, in a closed circle of bigotry; everyone else is cursed. All attempts at fraternisation or tolerance towards people of another language aroused in them hatred that reached frightening heights. Death to other languages and to the people who speak them! Daring to suggest that people with a tongue different from their own could benefit from the goodness of God, was to risk oneís life. They led Jesus to the top of a hill to throw Him off because He had just said, "There were many widows in Israel at the time of Elijah... he was not sent to any of them but to a widow of Sarepta in Sidon". Jesus added to their immense rage, "There were many lepers in Israel at the time of Elisha... none of them was healed except Naaman the Syrian". This was, in their eyes, more than enough to deserve death.
The Samaritans, even though related to the Jews, did not escape from their racist opposition, to the extent that one day, because they had not been welcomed in a Samaritan village, Jesusí own disciples asked Him, "Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?" Jesus had to answer them, "Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of" (Luke 9:55 KJV). One of the worst insults that you could hurl at a Jew, was to call him a Samaritan; having called him that, there was nothing left to do but to spit on the floor. Little did those disciples realise that later on, they would return to those same Samaritans, and would no longer ask for a baptism of fire for them, but for a baptism of the Spirit to seal their oneness with them. This ferocious antipathy for the Gentiles had its roots in the far-distant past. It was the literal accomplishment of the prophecy made almost 1500 years earlier, "I will arouse your jealousy by that which is not a nation, I will provoke your anger by a nation without intelligence" (Deut.32:21). The elect, the chosen people of God, they certainly were but they had perverted the meaning God had intended by that title. Their vocation was to be a witnessing people, set apart and separated from other peoples. But separation from the evil, abominations and idolatry of these other peoples did not imply hatred, disdain, pride and a superiority complex. They had become more elitist than the elite, going so far as to exclude all those who did not belong to their group and imprisoning their Yahveh instead of revealing Him to others. So, when God reveals Himself to the Gentiles, the prophecy is accomplished to the letter, and their jealousy simply explodes. In Thessalonica, "the Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the market-place, formed a mob and started a riot in the city" (Acts 17:5). In Antioch, "when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and talked abusively against what Paul was saying" (Acts 13:45). When they heard Paul and Barnabas say, "I have made you a light for the Gentiles that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth", they incited a persecution against Paul and Barnabas and chased them from their town (Acts 13:50).
On the Fortress Steps
Once Paul was back in Jerusalem, the opposition started all over again. What a narrative in Acts 22! The prisoner Paul stands on the steps of the fortress. He motions to the crowd with one hand and asks to speak. As he begins in Hebrew, silence falls upon the crowd. Everyone holds his breath to catch what he is saying. Paul relates his encounter with Christ on the Damascus road. They hang on to his every word and no one dares interrupt him. Without raising an eyebrow, they listen to him talk about his past, his personal titles, his activities, his zeal for the Jewish cause. He tells them about the apparition of Jesus and they do not blink an eye. He speaks of his baptism, and still there is no reaction. But at the very instant that he starts, "The Lord said to me, Go, I will send you far away to the Gentiles...", the sentence freezes in mid-air. They listened as far as that word Gentiles (or nations); then they raised their voices, they hurled their clothing around and threw dust into the air, shouting, "Rid the earth of him! He is not fit to live!" What made them explode like that? Simply the idea that God could also be the God of every man and every tongue. It is now easier to understand why speaking in tongues is the sign of this great truth and that for "this people" it was the means of access to it. This unbelief would drive some of them to bind themselves with a solemn oath on their own head that they would take no food until they had killed the apostle of the Gentiles, the man who had so successfully brought the Gospel to foreign languages (Acts 23:12). Jonah did the same thing. He sulkily sat on the east side of the city, waiting for it to be destroyed, and there, under his bush, he pouted and moaned because the punishment was delayed, so engrossed was he in his gruesome expectations, hoping for the death of a people that God wanted to save.
Even the Apostles
Jonah, who reproached God for sparing Nineveh, was the spiritual father of the apostles - yes, you read it correctly - the unbelieving apostles who reproached Peter because he had announced the Gospel to Gentiles (Acts 11:1-3). Unbelievable! Spiritually speaking, they were hard of hearing, as was Peter himself. Although he had experienced the extraordinary events of Pentecost and had spoken in tongues on that day, he dreaded approaching people of other languages. In order to compel him to do so, God had to give him the vision of the sheet full of animals that he considered unclean. Three times the Lord had to tell him, "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean" before he made up his mind to go and, by doing so, to acknowledge that "God does not show favouritism but accepts men from every nation..." (Acts 10:9-16,34,35). In fact, it is only after this vision that he utters the famous "whosoever", in a key phrase in one of the greatest moments in history, "All the prophets testify about Him that whosoever believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name" (Acts 10:43).
This word "whosoever" allows us to discuss a very important aspect of John 3:16. The verse that millions of Christians have known by heart since their childhood, contains a doctrinal truth that many have missed. Jesus said to Nicodemus, "For God so loved... Who? THE WORLD". A Jew would never have said that; not Jonah, nor Peter, nor any of the others. They would all have said, "For God so loved ISRAEL"! Already, so early on in the Gospel, the Lord announces the extent of His love and His salvation: the whole world composed of nations, peoples, tribes and languages. On the cross, the death verdict was written in three languages: in Latin, the legal language; in Greek, the commercial language; in Hebrew, the religious language. Without realising it, the authors of this inscription were proclaiming the universal aspect of the Gospel. Their curt official statement carried the seed of the great commission that rang out a few days later, "Go and make disciples of all nations...". But for the apostles, this truth went straight in one ear and out the other.
The Teaching of the Epistles
Let us examine the teaching of the Epistles. When John wrote his first epistle, he inserted that phrase that seems so self-evident as to be superfluous, "... He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world" (I Jn.2:2). Of course! but this was not so obvious to the Jews. John worked chiefly among Jews (Gal.2:9). He had to constantly remind them that Godís forgiveness, acquired by the death of Christ on the cross, was not for them alone, but for everyone of every tongue in the whole world. All through his writings and right into the Book of Revelation, sixty years after Pentecost, John insists on this point. Again and again he speaks of a "new song" in contrast with the "song of Moses". What was the theme of Mosesí song? Godís relationship with the chosen and redeemed people and no hint of anything more. It is the song of the Old Covenant with Israel. What does the song of the New Covenant now say? "By your blood you have redeemed men of every tribe, every language, every people and every nation...". The song of Israel did not go as far as that. This worldwide dimension had not been grasped. In order to seize hold of it, they needed three things: the apostolic teaching, an inner illumination by the Holy Spirit and a corresponding outward sign, speaking in foreign tongues.
In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul, the doctrinal teacher of the Church, explains that Gentiles and Jews form a single body and share in the same promises (Eph.3:6). For us today there is nothing mysterious about this, but Paul calls it a mystery. For the Jews, sharing the same promises with Gentiles was a hidden truth (Eph.3:9) that they could only begin to understand with the help of the sign of tongues, because the Jews demanded signs (I Cor.1:22). Just like Jonah, they certainly wanted men to be saved, but not all men and especially not foreigners, whilst God wants people of all nations to be saved (I Tim.2:4). Paul repeats this novel idea, (that is, novel for the Jews only) in another way in his letter to Titus. He reminds him to declare and to teach that the grace of God is a source of salvation for all men (Titus 2:11). This was not automatically assumed by the new Jonahs of the New Testament. It took an exceptional man of Paulís stature and talents to swiftly grasp this truth and to have the tenacity to stand firm against everyone, even against Peter (Gal.2:5). Paul had to hammer it home to convince them. Between themselves and foreigners, they had built a kind of Berlin wall. Paul knocks down this shameful wall straddled with theological watchtowers, first by speaking by the Spirit in the tongues of those who were on the other side, and then by teaching them that Christ brings peace to those on both sides of the wall, making the two one. He destroyed the separating wall of hostility; and from the two He created a single new man in Himself, "by reconciling both of them in one body on the cross and by that cross putting to death their enmity; He came to proclaim peace to those who were far away (the Gentiles) and to those who were near (the Jews), for through Him both have access to the Father in one Spirit" (Eph.2:11-17).
Alleluia! Paul exclaims joyfully, "Although I am less than the least of Godís people, this grace was given to me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ..." (Eph.3:8). Unfortunately, not everyone shared Paulís glorious conviction that he had been baptised by the Spirit to form one body with all men, Jews and Greeks (I Cor.12:13). Their unrelenting opposition would expose them to the terrible baptism of fire, "... they displease God and are hostile to all men in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God (that they have wished on others) has come upon them at last" (I Thess.2:15,16). Yes, these foreign tongues, sign of a new and worldwide covenant were to become a fire to them, a fire of judgement. The wrath of God was to set them aflame like the chaff that is thrown into the fire (Matt.3:12).
It is Peter, the unbelieving believer, who gives us the irrefutable and decisive proof that this was indeed the type of unbelief at which the sign of tongues was aimed. God gave him another sign, identical to tongues and similarly adapted to his need. Although he had lived through Pentecost and had experienced the gift and had given by divine inspiration an explanation whose real meaning surpassed him, just like in Caiphasí case when he uttered prophetic words about the redeeming death of Christ (Jn.11:51), Peter still shied away from the great truth that he had proclaimed without totally grasping it, "I will pour out my Spirit on all people", in other words, on Jews and non-Jews. The sad episode of Gal.2:11-14 where "he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles" is there once more to remind us, if need be, how biased was the Jewish mindset. In order to send him to the house of Cornelius, the foreign centurion, God had to break down the resistance of his unbelief, which on another occasion he expressed this way, "You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him" (Acts 10:28). We are reminded of this at length in chapters 10 and 11 of the book of Acts. What was the significance of that sheet that descended from heaven full of animals that were unclean according to the law of Moses, that Peter would never have touched? It represented everything that was not Jewish, that is, all the unclean peoples of foreign languages. So we cannot imagine for one second that this sign would convince anyone other than a Jew. They alone had to be convinced to abandon this particular unbelief and to consider no longer impure the people and the languages that God considered pure, languages pure enough to be spoken by His Holy Spirit. Thus, the gift of tongues had exactly the same meaning. Because of his Judaism, that empty way of life that had been handed down to him from his forefathers (I Pe.1:18), Peter had a strong natural tendency not to believe in the vocation of the Gentiles. That is why he still needed that vision-sign. In the same way the other Jews, (already saved or who were going to enter into this new covenant) also needed signs that said the same thing. This sign in foreign languages, like the triple vision of Peter, taught them that salvation was for "whosoever", for "all flesh", for "every tongue". Now, if we have been saying that Peterís vision and speaking in tongues were the same thing, we must understand that whereas the goods are the same, the wrapping is different. Bearing that in mind, we discover that the two signs have a number of points in common, points that we do not come across in any other gift of the Spirit.
The Two Signs Compared
I. The vision was given to a believer, but it targeted Peterís unbelief. Similarly, speaking in tongues was practised by believers and it concerned the same type of unbelief.
II. The vision was a sign for the apostles of Christ (amazing as that may seem) who did not believe in the salvation of those who spoke a tongue different from their own. Peterís vision and the tongues in Corneliusí house finally persuaded the apostles to believe that God had granted the same gift to foreigners as He had to them, and caused them to exclaim with astonishment, "So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life!" (Acts 11:18) See also Acts 10:45 where "the circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles".
III. The vision was only repeated a limited number of times and then taken up into heaven, but we are reminded of its meaning every time we read Acts 10 and 11. In the same way, speaking in tongues was limited and the end of its practice was clearly announced by the Holy Spirit in I Cor.13:8, a subject which we shall deal with in chapter 8. Like Peterís vision, its meaning is renewed every time we read the recorded episodes that mention it.
IV. The vision explained the universal and multi-lingual dimension of the new message to be preached. This was also the case with the gift of tongues; it demonstrated to the proponents of the "Israel only" doctrine that the Gospel extended also to "every tongue".
V. The vision only got its full explanation with the conversion of Cornelius. In the same way, speaking in tongues is only fully understood in the light of the conversion of peoples of "foreign and barbaric" languages, that is, the non-Jews.
VI. Peterís vision would be out of place in an assembly of believers already convinced of the universality of the offer of salvation. The same goes for tongues; it is not a sign for such believers and would be out of place, should it be practised in their midst.
VII. Peter was personally edified by his vision, but only in the sense of what it taught him, and that is all. No other meaning than that can be extracted or added. So it was with those who spoke in tongues; they were edified within the limits of what the sign meant and nothing more. It was a brand new idea to them; it taught them that the Spirit of God was also poured out "on all flesh, every tongue, all people" and that they should not call anyone impure whom God had made clean and whose tongue He accepted. No other meaning than that can either be extracted from it or added to it.
VIII. The vision was repeated three times for Peter. Once its message had been understood it was inconceivable that he should continue to pursue the same vision for the rest of his ministry. In the same way, speaking in tongues is reported three times in Acts 2, 10, 19 and lasted until the still Judaeo-Christian church of the apostles had properly understood what it meant, and not beyond. For if nowadays we should still be pursuing tongues and all that it signifies, the same principle would apply to the vision of Acts 10. We should be seeking both. But WHO in todayís Church composed of peoples, tribes, nations and languages, WHO still needs to be convinced by a repeated sign that the Spirit of God is poured out on all peoples, nations, tribes and languages?! And thus, the vision of unclean animals made clean and the sign of tongues communicated exactly the same thing to THIS PEOPLE, the Jewish nation in a state of unbelief concerning this truth, that access to the God of Israel and to the oneness of the body of Christ was open to foreigners and barbarians whose tongues were miraculously spoken by the Holy Spirit.
A Sure Foundation
Our foundation being the immovable rock of Scripture, we will conclude with the infallible words that the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write, "Through men of strange tongues and through the lips of foreigners I will speak to THIS PEOPLE". And who was THIS PEOPLE to whom the sign of speaking in tongues was destined? To ask the question is to give the answer. In the New Testament, the expression THIS PEOPLE appears twelve times. Without exception it refers to Israel and only to Israel.
At the risk of being repetitive, we say once more that the PURPOSE of speaking in tongues is clearly explained in the episode of Pentecost, and more precisely in this decisive text, "I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh and whosoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved". "All flesh...whosoever" underlines the purpose: to tell these unbending Jews from everywhere that the Gospel was also for people from everywhere. This will lead Paul to conclude that tongues are a sign, not for believers, but for the unbelieving. Directed by the Holy Spirit, Paul reveals the exact identity of these unbelieving people and he names them, the Jews, "through the lips of foreigners I will speak to THIS PEOPLE".
The Sheriffís Badge
Some people ask, "if the sign was only for the Jews, why did the Gentiles in Corneliusí house also speak in tongues?" In pioneer America, when it was not yet compulsory to wear a police uniform, the representative of the law would wear a distinctive badge pinned on his chest, the famous star-shaped sheriffís badge. This proved to the population, and especially to the hoodlums on the corner of the street, that the authority which he assumed had not been usurped but was perfectly legal. In the same way, Cornelius had the sign of tongues "pinned" on him as a kind of divine badge that gave him credibility in the eyes of a still unbelieving Israel, Gentile though he was, he had every right to have access to the Church, on the same footing as the converted Jew. If Cornelius spoke in tongues, it was so that Peter could recount it to the Jewish apostles, who had not yet acknowledged that the Gentiles had this right. When they heard that "... the Holy Spirit came on them as He had come on us at the beginning, ... they had no further objection" (Acts 11:15,18). This last sentence demonstrates to what extent the preaching of grace to other nations had aroused their disapproval. So Cornelius was the sign-bearer, but the sign was for "this people". To them it was the appropriate demonstration that their God accepted the Gentiles on the same level as the pure children of Israel.
The Disciples in Ephesus
The episode in Ephesus (Acts 19:1-7), where twelve men suddenly speak in tongues, is along the same lines. These Jews, disciples of John the Baptist and baptised by him with the baptism of repentance that was for "this people", were in Ephesus in Asia Minor or what is known as Turkey today. They lived in communities or mini-colonies, guarding their Jewish cultural identity jealously in the midst of the pagan population. However, the Gospel had started to penetrate these pagan masses and churches were already being formed among them. Faced with their natural refusal to believe that they could become ONE with these surrounding peoples, the Holy Spirit seized hold of their lips and made them praise, in the pagansí tongues, the God of Israel who was now becoming, in their Jewish eyes, the God of the nations. These twelve men, part of THIS PEOPLE, needed the sign of tongues in order to be taught about the worldwide dimension that their Yahveh was now giving to His salvation.
On more than one occasion, I have noticed just how darkened the spiritual intelligence of some Christians can be when it comes to understanding this point of doctrine. I recently carried out the following experiment. I read Peterís vision twice over, slowly, to three friends who are newly saved and have a fairly limited education. I did the same thing with three children, one eight-year-old and two nine-year-olds. I then asked them what they had understood. With a few excusable hesitations, they gave me the correct answer, which I can sum up as follows, "Peter understood that he could go and talk about salvation to foreigners". We must emphasize that the give-away expression "foreign languages" is not found in this episode of Acts 10, and yet the message was received with no difficulty by unsophisticated minds.
But in the expressions "foreign languages" or "strange tongues" found in I Cor.14, the idea of foreigners and their tongues is clearly expressed. Yet, some people, sometimes academics, who boast of being more enlightened by the Spirit than others, are seemingly prevented from seeing that the sign that they claim most to be their own was, in fact, telling the Jews that they could, like Peter, also take the message of salvation to every foreigner, to every creature, to every tongue, in a word, "to all people". It can be read without a magnifying glass, and can be understood without any explanation. Thus, unconverted children and newly born-again adults with a limited education have understood what the vision said to the Israelite Peter, but the "baptised in the Spirit" are incapable of seizing hold of the straightforward meaning of the sign they talk about the most
The words of our Lord seem relevant here, "In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: you will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this peopleís heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them" (Matt.13:14,15).
JESUS AND TONGUES
Now what shall help us better understand the true PURPOSE of the gift of tongues is the example of Jesus our Lord who, by His very person, is the explanation of His doctrine. But here we have to argue from silence. Let us explain. In the New Testament it is Jesus who first announces this sign, "Here are the signs... they will speak in new tongues" (Mark 16:17). But the troubling fact is that He Himself never spoke in tongues! This simple remark disturbs those who, claiming the example of a Master who is the same yesterday, today and forever, are obliged to admit that the silence is total. How are they going to get out of this dilemma?
Here are two unsuccessful explanations, diametrically opposed to one another, and which show just how impossible it is to read the Bible calmly, when one has put oneís finger into the mesh of error. The first comes from a Pentecostal minister who says this, "If Jesus never spoke in tongues, it is because He was perfect and therefore did not need to edify Himself". The apostle Peter would classify the author of this remark in the category of "ignorant people who twist the Scriptures to their own destruction" (II Pe.3:16). To invoke the absence of a gift in the name of spirituality is a sad demonstration of insincerity at its worst. To this pure evasion of the issue we reply with a very simple question, "Why did our Lord require that John the Baptist administer to Him the baptism of repentance, since He had no need of repentance?" However He did it. And since He did it, it was, as He says, in order to accomplish what was just and useful for us to know. If, therefore, the divine Son of God never spoke in tongues, it is because He knew that, contrary to repentance, practically all His church would never have need of doing so. History confirms this.
The second explanation is as bad as the first and contrary to it. Defying the silence of Scripture, certain people dare say and write the opposite, "We cannot imagine for a single moment that Jesus never spoke in tongues. Certainly He did, for not all that Jesus said and did is in the Bible (Jn.21:25). Were we there to hear Him speak in tongues when He was praying all alone, a whole night, on the mountains? Were we there when, in agony, He was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane? Were we there when He made His prayers and requests with loud cries and tears to God, who could save Him from death?" (Heb.5:7). Incredible! Poor friends, reduced to justifying their error by adopting new errors, which contain the seed of most heresies: going beyond the Word of God. These are dangerous thoughts. It suffices to continue, "Were we there when He taught His disciples the co-redemption of Mary? Were we there when He taught them about purgatory? Were we there when He spoke on indulgences?" To what raving can one go and to what judgement will be exposed those who add their own flight of fancy to the clear record of Scripture? Rev. 22:18 gives the answer: to be struck by the plagues of God.
We add a third consideration. The most often-employed tactic is to attract attention to other texts in order to leave unnoticed those which are embarrassing, a bit like a magician who fixes the attention of his audience on one of his hands while the other juggles the object quickly away in the shadow. The public sees only the animation and applauds. Here is what one can read on page 20 of Reports on Speaking in Tongues by Thomas BrŤs, "Among the objections most often made in Christian circles, we hear, ĎThe Lord, our divine model, never spoke in tongues and never taught anything on this subjectí."
We find here almost all the logic of his book. The objection he quotes consists of two propositions: 1) Jesus never spoke in tongues; 2) Jesus never taught anything on the subject. Each one of us learnt at Primary School that we can only add units of the same kind. A horse plus an egg equals only an egg and a horse! We cannot expound our ideas on the two as if they were one. However this is what Thomas BrŤs does. He expounds the second proposition in the name of the first. He focuses attention on the second and says nothing of the one that states: Jesus never spoke in tongues. He places one under the microscope while he puts the other away in his pocket. But there is something more serious. The second proposition comes out of his own imagination. He invented it simply to give himself the opportunity of shooting it down. Never, no never, has an evangelical Christian stated that Jesus did not say anything about speaking in tongues. They all know that Jesus was the first to prophesy the speaking in new tongues according to Mark 16:17. None amongst them has ever contested this. T.BrŤs invented this proposition in order to turn the attention from the first that is true. This allows him, in the eyes of a superficial reader, to avoid the formidable objection raised not by the non-Pentecostals, but by the Spirit-inspired Word of God: Jesus never spoke in tongues!
Let us analyse the situation objectively and without passion. Jesus was permanently filled with the Holy Spirit and He had all His gifts. But He did not have this one, and didnít seem to miss it.. He did not speak of it; He did not look for it; He did not exercise it. If speaking in tongues was all we are told it was, He would certainly have needed it. He who was sometimes tired to the point of exhaustion, why didnít He use the tongues-restorative virtues, which Thomas Roberts (*1) made use of so often? If this gift was to be exercised in private, or among friends, why didnít He ever use it in the company of His disciples? Since He sang before climbing the Mount of Olives, why didnít He sing in tongues on such an appropriate occasion? Why didnít He ever join the angels in their heavenly language, when He saw them ascending and descending upon Him? (Jn.1:51). Why didnít He try to add this sign to the others for the good of His ministry? Those who needed to see the other signs, did they not need to see this one? In I Cor.12 we find a list of the nine gifts of the Spirit which are: WISDOM, KNOWLEDGE, FAITH, HEALING, MIRACULOUS POWERS (working of miracles), PROPHECY, DISCERNING OF SPIRITS, DIFFERENT KINDS OF TONGUES, INTERPRETATION OF TONGUES. Our Lord had, and used, all these gifts except that of speaking in tongues and (of course) its natural associate, interpretation. Donald Gee confirms this by saying, "These gifts were not manifested during the earthly ministry of the Lord Jesus" (*2). Therefore if Jesus did not have this gift, it is because it was not necessary that He have it, but WHY?
It is actually the absence of this gift in Jesusí ministry that will confirm to us the general teaching of the Bible on this subject. We know that Jesus rarely left the confines of Palestine. As He told His disciples, His Gospel did not go beyond the lost sheep of the House of Israel (Mat.10:6). He even forbade them to go to any Gentile territory or any Samaritan towns, that is, to any foreign languages. The worldwide aspect of His teaching was still hidden. There was not yet any question of "peoples, tribes, nations and tongues". Nothing, or almost nothing, gave the slightest inkling about the international scope of His work in the future. Up to this point there was nothing to make the Jews jealous of the grace given to the Gentiles, for they had not yet been brought into the picture. The gift of tongues, sign of their integration into Godís plan, had therefore no reason for existing as yet. So Jesus mentioned speaking in tongues only once in Mark 16:17 at the very end of His ministry to Israel. It is highly significant to see WHEN He speaks of it. His prophecy flows naturally from the preceding sentence, "Go into ALL THE WORLD". It is the famous "to every creature", that is, to every tongue, tribe etc.., that launches the sign-gift of speaking in tongues. The narrow limits of Jewish nationalism were going to break open. But Jesus knew that "THIS PEOPLE" would do everything possible to keep the Good News from being announced to people of other tongues. Therefore He was going to give to "THIS PEOPLE", by His disciples, the appropriate sign, the only one of all the signs that He had not needed to use. This "silence" in Jesusí life teaches us more than many words could. It confirms that the PURPOSE of the gift of tongues complies with what Peter and Paul later said of it. It was the sign for this "unbelieving people" that God, according to Joel 2:28, was pouring out His Spirit from that time onwards, not only on Israel, but on "all people".
(*1) See chapter 14.
(*2) D. Gee, "Les dons spirituels" pp. 77.
TWO SORTS OF TONGUES ?
Let us briefly recapitulate what we have already discovered in the Word of God. Contrary to the modern-day doctrine and practice of tongues:
1. What was uttered in tongues was never addressed to men, nor was it ever a tool for evangelisation, as Donald Gee and Dennis Bennett, the outstanding Pentecostal teachers themselves admit.
2. It was not a sign for believers but for unbelievers.
3. These unbelievers were exclusively Jews who were loath to admit to their unity with people speaking foreign languages, the Holy Spirit confirming in both Testaments that the sign was for "this people" of Israel (Isaiah 28:11, I Cor.14:22).
That is already a lot of errors, far too many, and it is nowhere near finished. What is always unpleasantly surprising when one goes to a meeting where tongues are spoken, is the incomprehensibility of what is said. The sounds emitted are often bizarre and they do not bear any resemblance to a real language. Some people, basing their ideas on I Cor.13:1, claim that it is "the language of angels". The fact is that every time angels spoke in the Bible, it was always in languages that were contemporary and understandable on that occasion... Moreover, it is strikingly clear that in this chapter the Spirit leads Paul to use the hyperbolic "even if"... Paul did not have the knowledge of every mystery, since he adds several verses further on that he only knows in part. He had not given his body to be burnt. As he owned nothing or very little, never had he the chance to give all his worldly goods to the poor. Nor did he speak every language of men and angels. Paul makes it all the more evident that he could not speak the tongues of angels, by referring to them as "words which man is not permitted to speak" (I Cor.12:4). It was the conditional "if" that he used. A child could understand that.
In order to convince me, young fellow that I was at that time, specialists in the matter explained that we exceed our own capacities when we speak in tongues; from English (*1) we pass to the sublime level to join with the angels in their heavenly language. When we find ourselves short of words to say to God, the Spirit comes to our aid to lift us up one or two notches to realms that are inaccessible to the rich language of Shakespeare (*2).
At first I professed my reservation, pointing out that, quite on the contrary, I had observed strange noises, inarticulate sounds and constantly repeated syllables that had nothing angelic about them at all. Then these same friends, who had explained things to me with reference to angels, were all of a sudden explaining with reference to savages. It could be a dialect from the Indian tribes of South America, from Matto Grosso, from the natives of Borneo, or Central Africa! This seemed pure nonsense to me. Our language is one of the richest and most complex in the world; how could a rudimentary language with a hundred times less vocabulary sublimate what English couldnít? When the Lord made Balaamís ass talk, He did not make it express itself in confused sounds; it did not grunt just anything. Balaam understood very well what the ass said, in fact, they had a little talk together. Would the God who created man in His own image, and who by new birth also renewed manís understanding, then lower him to be less articulate than a donkey? To find this out we need only look at what happened at Pentecost, where we find the norm of speaking in tongues. Each one of those Jews coming from many nations under the sun, "heard them speaking in his own language" (Acts 2:6), and they said, "How is it that each of us hears them in his own native language?" (v.8) A third time in v.11, after having listed fifteen different dialects, they ask the same question again, "We hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!... what does this mean?" These were definitely real, spoken and contemporary human languages.
How then has another glossa, one in which we do not understand anything, been able to slip into peopleís minds and take root so forcibly? We pick out that apparent contradiction in I Cor.14:2, where unlike in Acts 2, it is written, "for anyone who speaks in a tongue... no one understands him". So it is suggested that there were two sorts of tongues, one in Acts that was understood, and one later on that was no longer comprehensible. It is quite obvious that if the tongues in the epistle had been different from those at Pentecost, that should also come across in the term used to describe them. But there is nothing of the sort. The author of the book of Acts, Luke uses the same words as Paul does in his letter to the Corinthians. If the two tongues were not the same, Luke would have indicated it, if only by the use of different words. We know that Acts was written much later than the epistle to the Corinthians and that the latter was circulating in the churches. It goes without saying that Luke was well aware of the content of the letter as he was Paulís biographer and travelling companion. No one better than he knew all about the Pauline thinking on this subject. If what he reports in his letter was different from what Paul said in his, he would have been sure to point it out so as to avoid any confusion. But he did not, he spoke of it as Paul spoke of it, and he used the same word to talk about one and the same thing. It is the same glossa in one case as in the other. The Greek texts are clear. Paulís languages are as well-known as those Luke talks about, since he says, "all sorts of languages in the world" (I Cor.14:10) (*3). In Paulís mind, the issue definitely concerns human languages. If they were in the world (or of the world), why were they not understood by the Corinthians just as they had been only a few years earlier in Jerusalem?
Back to Jerusalem
Let us see exactly what took place in Jerusalem. When the Holy Spirit came, separate tongues of fire (or like fire) descended on the disciples, who spoke separately and distinctly in the dialects of the people present. Fifteen countries and peoples are cited; each person understanding the language of the country he came from. There was nothing miraculous in the hearing; the emission was supernatural but the reception was natural, since it was their own particular language that they were hearing. As for the fourteen other languages, unless they knew them, they would not have been able to understand them, any more than the Corinthians could understand languages that they did not know.
Bearing in mind that an illustration is worth more than a long speech, let us picture the scene.
Let us suppose that there were Corinthians present at Pentecost, armed with fifteen tape recorders, and that they separately taped what was said and understood there. Imagine that back in their assembly in Corinth they played the fifteen different cassettes to their Christian brethren who only spoke one language, possibly two. The inevitable conclusion would be the same as that of Paul, "no one understands"! Of course, because being in Greece, no one could understand anything apart from Greek! Let us take things one step further. If these cassettes were transported through the centuries and listened to today in churches in Paris, London, New York, Berlin, and Melbourne, the result would be the same. These fifteen languages that were so well understood would be no more understandable nowadays than they were in Corinth in the first century. Conversely, imagine that, with the help of the Time Machine, we transported the whole church of Corinth to Jerusalem; they would have understood the words uttered miraculously in their tongue, Greek, but they would have grasped nothing of the fourteen other tongues. And if Greek had not been on the Holy Spiritís programme that day, they would have understood nothing at all! That is exactly what happened in their meetings in Corinth; languages other than Greek were being spoken by the Spirit. No one understood anything, not because it was another kind of tongue, an ecstatic or angelic language, but quite simply because it was not Greek. What was being said, although in languages as contemporary as at Pentecost, was as inaccessible to them as phoning in Arabic to someone who speaks only English!
Also in Jerusalem
For the same reasons, we note that, at Pentecost some people, as in Corinth, did not understand what was being said. It is clear, according to Acts 2, that there were two groups of Jews present at the religious festival: 1) Those who were visiting Jerusalem from fifteen different countries (v.5) and who, besides Aramaic, spoke one of these fifteen languages. 2) The local Jews, who obviously could not speak or understand any of these fifteen dialects. They were "the others" (v.13), who mocked, saying, "They have had too much wine". These native Jews, who spoke only Aramaic (as the Corinthians only spoke Greek), did not understand any better than the Corinthians would have what was spoken on that day. Instead of finding out from those who did understand, they preferred to make it a subject of derision, saying that the disciples were under the influence of alcohol. It is fitting to note that they could have said exactly what Paul wrote about twenty-five years later to the Corinthians, "No one understands". And if no one understands, Paul challenges them with the stinging remark, "... wonít people say you are mad?" To sum up, what does this prove? That the tongues in question in Corinth were not unintelligible ecstatic verbiage or an inaccessible angelic language, but real tongues as national and contemporary as those in Acts 2. And if, as Paul says, no one grasps them, it is quite simply because they did not have in their church, unlike the crowd in Jerusalem, the fifteen ears to understand them!
In conclusion, the "no one understands" has been turned into a very convenient shield to hide this fourth error, which can thus be kept from any possibility of being checked. Fortunately, the Holy Spirit has foreseen a means of verification that will throw more light on the error we have just mentioned. It will open the way to study a fifth one which is extremely serious. This will be the topic of the next chapter.
(*1) French, in the original.
(*2) Voltaire, in the original.
(*3) "and none of indistinguishable sound" (J.N.Darby)
We are now going to consider the gift of interpretation. To the charisma of tongues, the Holy Spirit had affiliated that of the interpretation of these tongues.
When the apostle Paul spoke in tongues (and he did so more often and better than anyone else), he did not allow himself to exercise this gift in the church, that is, in a group composed mainly of believers. As this sign was for unbelieving Jews, he says that, in the church he prefers to say only five intelligible words rather than ten thousand in tongues (I Cor.14:19). He is therefore two thousand times more favourable towards using everyday language than towards speaking in tongues, or in other words, he is two thousand times more against speaking in tongues than against not doing so. When Paul spoke in tongues, it was not like a man beating the air, nor like a clanging cymbal, nor like a trumpet giving an indistinct sound. No, he is efficient. He exercises this gift in the right setting, that is, in the presence of the super-patriotic, holier-than-thou Israelites who disdainfully rejected those foreigners, the Gentiles, the Goyim. If we follow him on his numerous journeys, we find him always and everywhere in conflict with the Jews, and even with converted Jewish brethren who disagreed with him on this essential point. When he came back from his first missionary journey to the church in Antioch, from which he had set out, "he reported all that God had done through them and how He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles" (Acts 14:27). On such occasions, and they were many, he would exercise the gift of praising the God of Israel in the language of pagans. He would so confirm, to those who were reluctant to admit it, both the vocation of the Gentiles and his apostleship to them (Gal.2:7,9).
The Wrong Track
There was no risk of Paul going off on the wrong track, but he was not the only one who spoke in tongues. Others who had that charisma did not put it to the same use. Forgetting for whom the sign was meant to be a sign, they got personal satisfaction from making others listen to them even in church meetings, and in the absence of opposing Jews, where there was no reason for tongues, except occasionally, one time in two thousand for example (I Cor.14:19). Since it was at that time a genuine gift of the Spirit, Paul did not want to forbid its use. For some people it had become like Samsonís Herculean strength, which was also a gift from God. Like latter-day Samsons, they were using and abusing their gift without intelligence. This is what Paul reminds them: to also use their intelligence. It was not gifts that the Corinthians lacked but the intelligence to use them properly. Paul has to reproach them for remaining at the childhood stage. Being still fed only on milk, spiritually speaking (I Cor.3:2), they were all into their own little linguistic demonstrations. Being mere babes as far as understanding went, they were all proud of showing off that they had at least "that". Let me paraphrase in an everyday style what Paul has to tell them in verses 16 and 17 of chapter 14, "Itís all very well to say lovely prayers and give thanks in Egyptian, or Persian, or Latin, but there is not a single extremist Jew with you this week from Alexandria, or from Persepolis, or from Rome. Weíd love to believe that your Latin conforms to the highest classical standard, and that it really makes you happy, and maybe even does you some good. But what on earth is the use of it, if no one here understands a single word? How do you want us to say ĎAmení, if we donít know what you said?"
Four things stand out concerning the Corinthian practice of interpretation:
1. Linked to the speaking in tongues, the interpretation ought to complete it and attain the first and permanent objective that was to serve as a sign for "this people" and their unbelief, a subject that has already been developed in depth.
2. It was absolutely necessary for a translation to accompany every case of speaking in tongues. Why? So that, as Paul wrote, what had been said could be understood, and the thus-edified hearers could add their personal amens, and intelligently join in the prayer they eventually understood. To translate tongues in the church, the Spirit of God gave the one who spoke, or someone else present, the no less extraordinary gift of interpretation.
3. It was obligatory that what was said in tongues be accompanied by interpretation. In no way could tongues be exercised without its explanatory complement (v.28). What is more, it was imperative to make sure that there was an interpreter in the assembly before starting to speak in tongues and not after; "... if there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet". In the light of these precise instructions, we glean the impression that the Corinthians themselves were far from the divine model. Today more than ever, these texts have been put aside in the most offhand manner.
4. Another practice, which was also antibiblical, was to pray or sing together in tongues. Interpretation, even if envisaged, would become impossible in the hubbub that followed. There again, God disapproved of the way things were done, labelling it with the strong term of "disorder". The Holy Spirit could not endorse the opposite of what He had commanded. And what did He command? Here is the answer, "If anyone speaks in a tongue, twoóor at the most threeóshould speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret" (v.27).
Having reached this point in our study, if we add up the distortions made to the divine teaching, we can already see that the conservative Pentecostals have missed the target just as much as the charismatics whom they hold in contempt. In athletic terms we would say that both have left the track.
These deviations are already very serious. But what comes next is even more alarming. In all the cases of interpretation that I have checked personally with the greatest care and with an open mind, I have discovered nothing other than human fabrication and deliberate trickery. What surprised me was the unacceptable difference between the brevity of the tongues and the disproportionate length of the interpretation; for example, some slow syllables of a short song were transformed into a veritable marathon in the translation. By dint of questioning those in high places, and by cross-checking, I finally obtained a confession that:
a) he who speaks in a tongue does not understand what he says;
b) the congregation does not understand what is said;
c) he who interprets does not understand what the man he is translating said either!
Having taken offence at such deceit, I was candidly told that the interpretation was not a real translation but a heart-felt translation!! So it was just any odd thing left to the fantasy of a pseudo-interpreter. This is neither what the Bible says, nor what was taught by Donald Gee, the master of Pentecostal thinking, who affirms that interpretation is truly a translation. (*1) Someone else, to try to get himself out of this embarrassing situation, told me that the interpretation was not the translation of what was said in tongues, but the response from heaven to what had just been said! Here we are completely rambling. Scripture is deliberately trampled underfoot, that very Word that points out (v.16) that giving thanks in tongues must be interpreted so that we may understand "WHAT IS SAID", so the congregation can show their agreement and join in the thanksgiving by saying, "so be it, Amen"!
Another Pentecostal leader dared even to tell me that the same case of speaking in tongues could very well have several interpretations! ! So, if I understand rightly, it is like sowing wheat which at harvest time, might turn out to be corn, oats, rye or barley without any surprise on the farmerís part. Do you expect that a cat can give birth at the same time to kittens, puppies and chicks? But no one gets upset when, in the spiritual realm, we are asked to believe that ONE kind of speaking in tongues brings forth several kinds of interpretation? Does Pentecostal Darwinism exist? Are we witnessing a sort of mutation of the species? Am I just supposed to accept all this passively without pointing out the fraud?
A Real Translation
To verify that the word concerned is TRANSLATION, let us look at the Greek term hermeneia here used by Paul. It is also found elsewhere in the New Testament. Here is what comes out in some examples, (using the KJV):
-- Mk.5:41 - "He took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, Talitha cumi, which is, being interpreted (hermeneia), Damsel, I say unto thee, arise".
-- Jn.1:38 - "Rabbi, which is to say, being interpreted (hermeneia), Master".
-- Jn.1:41 - "We have found the Messiah, which is, being interpreted (hermeneia), the Christ".
-- Jn.1:42 - "Thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation (hermeneia), Peter".
-- Jn.9:7 - "Wash in the pool of Siloam, which is by interpretation (hermemeia), Sent".
-- Acts 9:36 - "A disciple named Tabitha which, by interpretation (hermeneia) is called Dorcas."
Now we only have to follow these with:
-- I Cor.12:10 - "... and to another the interpretation (hermeneia) of tongues".
-- I Cor.14:26 - "... everyone has... an interpretation (hermeneia)".
We thus arrive, with Donald Gee, at the indisputable evidence that interpretation (hermeneia), the term chosen by the Holy Spirit, could not be anything other than TRANSLATION.
A retired Salvation Army colonel once told me of his utter consternation at what happened during a worship service he attended. He had given thanks in Lingala, the vernacular language of West Africa, his mission field. In the assembly, a patented "interpreter", believing it was tongues because he had not understood anything, gave an "interpretation" which had nothing to do, by any stretch of the imagination, with what had been said.
I personally noted that this counterfeiting was a known thing in the circles concerned. I was present in a meeting when a Christian from the Cape Verde Islands had just prayed in his own language, a Portuguese dialect. Scarcely had he said "Amen", that an elder who was wiser than the others interrupted the word of interpretation by saying, "Our brother has just given thanks in his native tongue". This means that without this intervention, there would have been the "miracle" of an interpretation, evangelical in terms of the vocabulary used, but in the spirit as false as the words of the young fortune teller of Acts 16:17, who, by the same spirit of confusion was able to say, "These men are the servants of the Most High God who are telling you the way to be saved".
One can imagine how attentively I listened to one incident of speaking in tongues that was as jerky, staccato and incomprehensible as all the others, in the middle of which suddenly stood out a thrice-repeated "spiriti santi" in Italian. Having grasped this triple repetition, I watched for its reappearance in the interpretation. I waited for it in vain. The Holy Spirit who supposedly inspired this repetition in the tongues, would He have forgotten it in the interpretation? Or was it that the Spirit of God was not responsible for either? But then, what "spirit" replaced Him?
A Spanish friend, in a French Pentecostal community, prayed the "The Lordís Prayer" in his native language. An interpretation followed that was anything but the "Pater Noster". For him also, this was one more proof that the person interpreting, not only did not understand any more than the others, but he was also deceiving everyone! beneath a veneer of evangelical phraseology! Profoundly saddened by this newly discovered dishonesty, I made up my mind to move on to a more advanced verification. I asked a Scottish brother who had the typical broad accent of his country, to put the "The Lordís Prayer" twice in a row onto cassette. Armed with this recording and that of two other "genuine" tongues followed by their interpretations taped "on location", I went to see some very moderate Pentecostal friends, for whom exaggerations and digressions were only found amongst others. No one in the community doubted their conversion, or their sincerity, or the reality of their "charisma". After praying together, I asked them to interpret the pseudo and "real" tongues. This was done without objection or reticence. Alas, and alas again, the "The Lordís Prayer" in English transformed itself into a message of encouragement in French! As to the rest, it was as different from the first as the Rhone is different from the Rhine and flows in the opposite direction. This episode reported back to my Scottish friend left him speechless. He could only mutter, "Oh dear! Oh dear!..."
Indeed can we still call ourselves Christians when we team up so closely with him who disguises himself as an angel of light? In order to get out of this sticky situation, many people claim, without really believing it, that one does not submit a gift of the Spirit to an electronic test. But it must be pointed out that it is not the test that created the trickery, it only confirmed it and it demonstrated moreover that these so-called gifts are not among those good and perfect gifts that come down from above (James 1:17)!
Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde
What follows now has nothing to do with electronics, but I ask you to consider it nonetheless. Several people have discovered that what is said in tongues can be oriented in opposite directions according to the interpreterís feelings of sympathy or antipathy for the object of the supposed message. I have personally been the target of two exhortations in tongues, concerning the same situation; the "divine" words of interpretation were all consolation in one case and all condemnation in the other! Could this be serious? Could the Holy Spirit be Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde according to the mood of the moment? A certain Pentecostal pastor betrayed his own misgivings. Because he had personal problems he found himself in some assemblies becoming the target of speaking in tongues that were too detailed and too oriented not to have been premeditated. Aware of this, his conclusion was the following, "I only accept what is said about me in tongues where they do not know me"!! He thus admitted there was trickery. But in his eyes it was purely one-sided. He accepted the exhortations as valid where he was not known, for there no barbs were thrown at him. But everyone knows that if a coin is counterfeit on one side, it is also on the other, heads and tails, and even around the edge! In addition, what more than sufficiently demonstrates that everything is purely human and subjective in todayís gift of tongues and that the Holy Spirit has nothing whatsoever to do with it, is that the interpretation is always the reflection of particular tendencies and feelings:
-- The R.C. charismatics show their allegiance to the doctrines of their church.
-- The spiritualists find occult revelations.
-- The Pentecostals, being evangelicals, adopt an evangelical language, as well as phraseology and convictions specific to their group.
-- The day when Muslims speak in tongues, the prophet Mohammed will perforce have pride of place in their "inspired" vocabulary. Will that confer on Islam a label of divine authenticity? All this means that once the incomprehensible gift is confronted with its interpretation, the mask falls off and its real face is revealed.
I have also noticed that those with whom I speak or correspond were never more irritated than when I confronted them with the verification of these two gifts. It made them really furious, some going so far as to hurl curses at me. So, is it only tongues that should not undergo the test of truth? On the contrary, the Bible commands us to test the spirits (I Jn.4:1-3).
The gift of the evangelist and the spirit that inspires him are to be put to the test according to I Cor.15:1-4: "The Gospel (the true one)I preached to you, ...otherwise you have believed in vain;" or according to Gal.1:8: "a gospel other than the one we preached to you... (is) condemned."
The sign of authenticity of the faith and of the gift of healing of the one who lays his hand on the sick was, according to Mark 16:17,18, that the sick person should be made whole.
The gift of prophecy had to be tested according to I Cor.14.:29, "... two or three prophets should speak and the others should weigh carefully what is said"; or, according to v.32, "the spirit of the prophets are subject to the control of prophets", which means that the gift of prophecy cannot contradict the general prophecy which thus puts it to the test. And above all, prophecies had to come true (Deut.18:21).
As for Paulís gift (among others) of being an apostle, (Eph.4:7 - 11), he can say, "The things that mark (prove) an apostle - signs, wonders and miracles - were done among you with great perseverance" (II Cor.12:12).
Why should two of these charismas alone be given a kind of diplomatic immunity or be placed above the laws of testing? To those who balked at submitting their gift to the decisive tape recorder test, objecting that such an atmosphere would not be conducive to the action of the Spirit, I reminded them:
a) that David Wilkerson whom they admire, claims (along with many others) to be able to speak in tongues at will, anytime and anywhere;
b) that recently the French television showed a programme where three Pentecostals sat in front of the cameras and held a conversation in tongues. The setting of the recording studio lent itself just as well as a church gathering to this spiritual manifestation, and that, even in the same atmosphere of camera shots and spotlights, they recorded an interpretation;
c) that one of their top leaders, Gordon Lindsay says in The Gift of the Spirit, page 147, that "ONE tongue can have SEVERAL DESIRED INTERPRETATIONS" (emphasis added).
With these three Pentecostal premises that my opponents could not reject, I challenged them as follows: Prepare a meeting where one of you will speak in tongues and three others will make a recorded interpretation in isolation. The interpretations that ought to say more or less the same thing will then be compared.
Here in writing, I stand by this yet unanswered proposition as a challenge to any charismatic, tongues-speaking community. Why has there not yet been, and will there never be, an answer to this offer, which is, nevertheless, an honest one?
Here is the combined advice from two Christians, who, having been burnt, have backed off from a doctrinal position and moral attitude they now disapprove of:
"Watch out brother, if these people enter into your game, it will only be to make you enter into theirs and to try to take advantage of you by fraud. They will only undergo a verification of their gift if they can be sure of cheating from the start, as for instance, agreeing in advance on a text, like Psalm 23 that they will learn by heart, just changing a word here or there. But if you demand a spontaneous interpretation with interpreters who do not know each other, you will only meet with their refusal. For a long time, we also thought that our assembly was the setting for manifestations of the Spirit. When there was an interpretation, we would hear Ďrevelationsí of a rather private nature, which were undeniably exact and touched almost all the families of the church. We believed there was a gift of Ďknowledgeí that accounted for the revelations by tongues. We ended up, however, by being astonished, and finally our astonishment turned into concern. This went on until the day the cat was let out of the bag. The occasion that revealed the masquerade was a squabble that grew into a division within the church. Then tongues were really loosened! It so happened that one of the elders was going around to different families of the assembly and then, in league with two other elders, they would agree to reveal in the Sunday service, first in tongues and then by interpretation, often mundane facts that had been noted in the previous daysí encounters!"
Faced with this organised deceitfulness, the advice of these friends to be on our guard is still timely. When fraudulence is upheld in principle, we can expect the worst. There where nothing Christian is left but the name, every low punch is permissible. We can accept that, like lambs in the midst of wolves, we need to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves in our attitude to the world, but that we ought to apply these extreme measures to those for whom sincerity, honesty and loyalty should be their lifeís principles, this causes the heart to shudder to the point of nausea. The Lord said, "When these people approach me, they honour me with their mouth and lips, but their hearts are far from me, and they worship me in vain, their teachings are but rules taught by men" (Isaiah 29:13).
Of course, we cannot a priori take all our Pentecostal brethren to court, accusing them of imposture and insincerity. Christian charity requires us to believe in their sincerity, until they have the opportunity to test the sound basis of the trust we offer them. We did say UNTIL, and no more. Because, when verification of the alleged gift is refused, moral honesty is dead and doctrinal error becomes a sin. Jesus gave the same conclusion to the Phariseesí blindness after He had healed the blind man in Jerusalem, "If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains" (Jn.9:40,41).
A Pentecostal Report on Electronics
Many, if not all of those challenged, obstinately refuse the tape recorder test under the fallacious pretext that we have no right to submit a gift of the Spirit to an electronic examination. Are those who say that so afraid to discover the truth? How then do they accept the fact that millions of cassettes with evangelical messages circulate around the world and are broadcast, listened to, copied and analysed by multitudes? These magnetic tapes are so inspired that many people are edified and others are born again by the Holy Spirit while listening to them.
In charismatic circles, audio-visual aids are widely used. Healings and miracles, supposedly by the Spirit, are photographed, filmed, duplicated and distributed. Speaking in tongues and their interpretations are taped, then listened to and commented on in private or in larger audiences. No, this refusal to be analysed by a neutral and impartial technique is motivated solely by a fear of discovering that the tongue-interpretation compound only exists in a counterfeit state. When a driver slows down at the sight of a police traffic control, it is because he does not have an easy conscience! We will now present decisive proof that this refusal is not the fruit of scriptural conviction, but rather an evasion camouflaging that very political art of dodging embarrassing questions.
The French magazine Experiences has an unquestionable Pentecostal allegiance. In issue number 73 of 1989, the only topic treated is (we quote), "The extraordinary discovery of the stupefying mathematical structures in the Bible by means of ULTRA-RAPID COMPUTERS" (page 24 and elsewhere). "The human elements in this research are the best Israeli and American mathematicians from the universities of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Yale and Harvard. This is serious work carried out by serious people..." (page 24). "There are not enough superlatives to describe the undertaking and, above all, the results. The COMPUTER demonstrates that the Bible is unique and contains in itself the signature of the Creator above and beyond what could be imagined by the most faith-filled men of God "(page 4, emphasis ours). And what brings this truth to light? Electronics! ! Now, writing the Bible was among the charismas that I Cor.13 cites as the gifts of knowledge and prophecy. These two elements constitute the Scriptures. In other words, everything in the Bible is knowledge and prophecy. These are not simply the most inspired spiritual gifts, but the most undoubtedly inspired of all the charismas. "All Scripture is God-breathed" (II Tim.3:16) and "For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (II Peter.1:21).
So, Experiences approves of the electronic test of this divine charisma that presided over the writing of the canon of the Scriptures; it does so without reserve and with overflowing enthusiasm. Dare we limit God by suggesting that the miraculous words He purportedly puts into the mouth of our Pentecostal brethren are less verifiable than those first spoken by Moses, or Jeremiah, or Peter, or Paul, or our Lord Himself? If modern techniques increase our faith in the Word of God tenfold, they should do as much for those other words which, we are strongly assured, also come from God. Why all this indecision? Could there be a doubt? Where is the problem? The reason for the problem can be found in the text of the aforementioned revue that we will reproduce in its totality (pages 6 and 7). Instead of Bible we will simply put tongues that will cover both speaking and interpretation. We would ask our readers to read and re-read the following lines with the most thoughtful consideration.
"We have come to some fantastic conclusions. These are facts that can in no way be altered. Any scientist wanting proof will be able to check the facts. But we are stuck with a psychological (moral) problem. It is an essential matter of life and death, which involves a commitment, as either Ďtonguesí is true, or should be thrown into the bin; either this work offers a new discovery, or there is nothing there. Many were interested in our work, but several folks, as soon as they understand where it is leading, refuse to go any further, saying Ďeveryone can believe what he wants...í But no! On a psychological level, each one of us can find what he wants in his imagination, but here we are confronted by a mathematical structure... Two and two make four for everybody. In this domain we cannot believe what we want" (emphasis added).
"As soon as they understand where it is leading". Here is the reason for objecting to go any further in the investigation of the gift of tongues: it is the fear of having to admit that if the electronic test confirms that the Bible is the signature of God, the same test may show us the signature of the one who disguises himself as an angel of light.
Anybody can check the thing out for himself as this verification does not involve any costly or complicated equipment. Who does not have a portable tape recorder? Let him who is honestly seeking the truth tape his own speaking in tongues, or get one from his church. If he believes that his gift is authentic, he must believe, necessarily, that no less can be said of anotherís gift of interpretation. Let him ask several of them SEPARATELY, without the others knowing, to interpret what is on the cassette; then let him compare these diverse "interpretations". I have personally done this. The signature was not that of the Father of lights but rather that of the father of lies. (James 1:17; Jn.8:44).
Another Type of Test
Since the electronic test makes all those who are afraid of discovering their error jump with feigned indignation, I have suggested another type of verification. Last year I proposed the following to two of the best known amongst all the Pentecostal leaders in France and in Switzerland:
"Since you believe, supposedly in good faith, that your gift of tongues still exists and that it is genuine, you are bound to believe that its inseparable corollary, interpretation, must necessarily possess the same miraculous characteristics. We will put aside the electronic test of which you disapprove and we will proceed as follows: We will each take two witnesses and we will go together to a Pentecostal assembly of my choice, where neither of us is known, and where the interpretation of all speaking in tongues is compulsory. Here, I will speak your double Dutch and you my gibberish. You will see that out of these two Ďtonguesí, mine as well as yours, will emerge two Ďinterpretationsí one hundred per cent Ďevangelicalí! That will demonstrate to you that this whole business is nothing but human fabrication and vulgar counterfeit. Having observed the forgery, we will, you and I and the four witnesses, immediately establish a report of the facts that we will sign and make known in every church in our two countries".
With the first person concerned the proposition has remained unanswered. The other one declined in a letter in which he accused me of being both a blasphemer and a false prophet! Neither of these two leaders has dared to take up the challenge. Why? Because they know very well that the only possible result would bring to light the fraudulence followed by its public exposure. Would a Christian still be worthy of the name if he proved himself less honest than the abominable prophets of Baal, who accepted Elijahís challenge as to the authenticity of their god? (I Kings 18).
A Needed Explanation
How can we explain that people truly or allegedly converted, born again, can be manipulated to such a degree by the father of lies? It would seem impossible. A real Christian cannot lie or continue to systematically lie to himself. This deserves an explanation. You would have to live with, or frequent, these groups to appreciate the atmosphere to which they are exposed for years on end. We understand the disjointed life of Samson much better when we know that he lived in an era when "everyone did as he saw fit." Samson was a child of the times conditioned by his entourage. It is true for a Christian who grows up in a community where the use of tobacco is accepted, where the elders set the example and where great care is taken never to breathe a word on the subject. This man will never be freed from his bondage to the nicotine plant. He will have even less of a desire to kick the habit when the drug has passed into his bloodstream and into his lifestyle without his conscience being alerted to it. Why should he repent of an addiction his entourage approves of, or in any case, does not disapprove of?
The same applies to the Roman Catholic, who cannot separate himself from a worldliness so natural to him that his whole religious life is impregnated with it. From the steps of the church he will pass without any transition to the door of the pub over the road, where he will have a game of darts with his friends, put some money on the horses or on the pools, sing along to a few pub songs while clinking glasses with the priest who will put him in charge of organising the next parish dance. The surrounding worldliness that he shares with non-church-goers will prevent him from being conscious of his state of perdition. He will believe in all good faith that he is pleasing to the Good Lord and is adding a good deed towards the making of his salvation. How could he unlock the door of repentance and conversion? The key has been taken away by the director of his conscience.
This is also what happens in communities with a strong charismatic influence. Experience prevails over doctrine and they all go with the flow. Mystic exaltation is appreciated. Serious and in-depth study of the Word of God is supplanted by stories, experiences, testimonies, visions and prophecies. It is the ideal ground for the abdication of reason. Lack of faith is stigmatised to extremes. "Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours" (Matt.11:24), is the kind of biblical truth that gets all blown out of proportion as a result of constant and exaggerated pressure. Each one feels under the obligation to give testimony to what he has already received, even if he has not received it, or is never going to receive it. With one foot in the grave, they shamelessly assure you that they are healed. It is not a lie, on the contrary, it is the triumph of faith. One must continue to believe whatever happens and by no means ever doubt. It is this outrageous distortion of the texts that so moulds the mentality that when someone misinterprets a tongue of which he has grasped nothing, he is not being fraudulent, he is quite simply believing! He is honouring God by his faith in the exercise of a gift that he believes he has received because he asked for it or because he has been made to believe that he has it. And since no one in his congregation is allowed to contest or check the evangelical platitudes he utters, he continues to ensnare himself in what he believes to be true, even if it flies in the face of truth. When a pastor affirmed that the big meeting place where he had just preached that evening was packed full, whereas there were actually less than twenty people present, he was not lying; he quite simply believed that God, whom he had asked with faith to fill the hall, could only have kept His promise. Since it is written "... believe that you have received", he believed that he had received it, and he was therefore able to say so out loud in the presence of those who had witnessed the very opposite!
These are truths turned wild that engender moods, which quickly become states of mind, unknown to other evangelical Christians who have a hard time believing that such abuses really exist. It is in fact a spiritual disease close to eastern and occult religions. It is the abandoning of the will, the abdication of the spirit, the depreciation of the faculty of reasoning. Has not one of their people, G. Ramseyer written a book (which we will talk about later) entitled "You think too much"? It is the annihilation of oneself to the point of losing self-awareness in order to be filled with another spirit. But what spirit? It is too easy to bring in defence of this I Cor.14:14, "For if I pray in a tongue,... my mind is unfruitful". Separated from the verse that follows which makes the correction by recommending also the use of intelligence, we come to a point where we welcome anything that does not come from intelligent thought. This indirectly leads to despising the very thing that distinguishes man from animal, and leads to a negation of the first and greatest commandment, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your... mind", in other words, with all your knowledge, all your reason, all your will, all your intelligence, all your spirit. When the opposite of this is favoured, you hear things like, "Do not resist, abandon yourself, do not reason any longer, let the Spirit take over, let yourself go, yield yourself up, make your mind a blank". We can be sure that, as in Matt.12:44, when the enemy finds the mind empty of the kind of resistance recommended in James 4:7, he will make haste to come and fill in the gap with the falsified guise of the Holy Spirit. As Jesus Himself puts it, "The final condition of that man is worse than the first". This is the only explanation for the "gift of interpretation" that we have just analysed at length.
Forgery and the Practice of Forgery
When all is said and done, what will give more weight to our inquest on the subject, is the acknowledgement by those who have dabbled in this trafficking of false gifts and have repented of this deception, their practice of these "gifts" being only forgery and the practice of forgery. If this last statement should hurt someone, let him remember that even more virulent terms are employed by orthodox Pentecostals to condemn their charismatic brothers who exercise the same gifts that they, incidentally, had conveyed to them. An ex-Pentecostal left us this courageous but terrible confession-indictment, "With us logical argument is not the right way to tackle the issue; we are only sensitive to that when it is to our advantage. We have an illness; what we need is to be healed". He wrote this to us after his healing.
No one can prevent counterfeiters from printing "good" notes, nor from using them, nor from putting them into circulation. False notes, like false gifts, procure real joy for those who possess them, and real wealth, and real notoriety, and real confidence in oneself and in the future until one day they get themselves caught. The time is approaching when all the forgers will have to face up to that terrible day of reckoning described in the following words:
1. "Give an account of your management... (Luke 16:2).
2. "... man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgement" (Hebrews 9:27)
What will they do on that day, those who have used falsehood in the domain of the sacred, under the pretence of a better way of speaking in the name of the Lord? They will no longer be able to call on His name. It will then be too late to put things right. To make a mistake, we all know, is already serious; refusing to check to see if we have made a mistake or if someone is misleading us, is even more serious; but to drag others into deceit by the use of deceit, there can only be one outcome which our Lord and Saviour spoke about, "If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit" (Matt.15:14). Let no one who practises such deceit, fool himself by hoping to say to Him on that day, "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?" The Lord will tell them plainly, "I never knew you, away from me, you evildoers!" (Matt.7:22,23)
The Old Clock
When I was a young boy, my father came home one day with an antique. It was a carved bronze clock under a glass dome, representing a country scene with various characters. Every visitor in our home had the privilege of contemplating this object, and enjoying the accompanying commentary on this precious work of art. We would wind up the mechanism with infinite care. It was a semi-religious ceremony. For fifteen years this valuable piece had pride of place on the living room mantelpiece, arousing the praises and the envy of many. I spent long moments contemplating this marvel that chimed on the hour and every half-hour. It gained a good twenty minutes between two windings, but this we kept to ourselves. A venerable timepiece that had withstood the test of time, ticking away second by second, minute by minute through passing hours and days, weeks and years. It was our pride and joy for fifteen years. When my father died we had to part with it. My mother and I sought the advice of a specialist in order to fix the price. The man quoted such a derisory amount that we were shocked. What did he mean, a handful of peanuts for an antique in worked bronze! With an apologetic smile, the expert took the treasure in his hands and tilted it to show me the interior. It was only a tin mould covered with gold plate!! The genuine article was total junk! It was only an imitation with no real value. Nevertheless, it was with a heavy heart that we saw it go, that clock that had given us joy, dreams, happiness even, and above all, the illusion of a "plus" that in the end was only a "minus", since my father had been conned. That would not have happened if, at the beginning, he had simply had it valued. We could have kept the clock and its sad secret, continuing privately to admire its ticking and to daydream whilst listening in ecstasy to its bi-hourly chimes, telling a true make-believe story.
The parallel is obvious. Many are doing just this where speaking in tongues is concerned. The biblical evaluation followed by the tape-recorder test has revealed to them what they had already vaguely suspected, that it was only, at best, a psychic state with no link, be it strong or feeble, to primitive apostolic authenticity. Yet it is hard for them to cut themselves off from their memories, their frame of mind, their cherished dreams, from the chiming of words that have marked their path. This nostalgia may be humanly understandable but is divinely unacceptable.
To get back to our clock, what would have been worse than keeping the nostalgia, which would already have been one way to lie to myself, would have been to lie to others by continuing to talk about it as if it were authentic and then to go so far as to try to sell it to them.
Alas, this is what many do in the realm of holy things. They organise meetings to seek the Spirit and to wait for His manifestation, and they provide the sales patter. The way in which they go about it rings as hollow as what they are proposing. What follows is but a pale reflection of what we have seen in Acts and what has been reported to us by eye-witnesses. First of all, the meeting begins with a warm-up session where all the drawbacks of not being baptised in the Spirit are reviewed, and where the whole panoply of effectiveness and power in the lives of those who do speak in tongues is described. When those listening, by now feeling their deep need, have been won over to such a brilliant prospect (and who would not succumb to the charm of this mental training?), we pass to the active phase. Intense, emotional praying flourishes; the supernatural event is awaited in the midst of sighs, confused words and cries, nearly always culminating in shouting and screaming. Then comes the laying on of hands accompanied by shouting invocations and booming orders to the Spirit that He (or he) fall on the candidate. In some cases things go as far as whipping with a belt to chase out the resisting demon. The inquirer is then urged to pray in hopes of no longer doing so in English. If the subject resists, his counsellor will take him into a corner. He will impress upon him a short phrase such as, "Alleluia, Jesus is alive!" urging him to repeat it ten, twenty, fifty times, more and more quickly, spurring him on with "faster, faster", until, unable to control itself, the noviceís tongue twists in his mouth and spills forth the inevitably strange sounds. A cry of victory will greet this "baptism in the Spirit", followed by congratulations, warm embraces, accolades, glowing faces and streaming tears. In the last few years, in some communities the "in" thing for the newly "baptised in the Spirit", to ensure their perseverance on this path, has been CLASSES FOR SPEAKING IN TONGUES! Revolting, some would say. Isnít this blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, in His name? If there are some charismatics who are outraged by these decidedly scandalous practices, many others, on the other hand, talk about them as if they were the most natural thing in the world, giving their whole-hearted consent to the brainwashing that they have been subjected to and that, in turn, they inflict on others. In our region, one man exercises his newly-found gift of leading young children into the baptism of the Spirit. With the agreement of nearby assemblies, he visits the Christian families therefrom and teaches their children how to speak in tongues!
The Other Guyís Fault
Some brothers in the Movement will say that this sort of thing does not happen in their midst. But go and find out! When I venture to point out these things, I am invariably told that it is others who are the phonies. Others referred to other Pentecostal assemblies, but never their own. It is the church across town or down the street. Why does this pious and tranquil friend, who denies being an extremist when he talks to you alone, change into such an agitated individual when he is back in his group? These Christian brothers looked devastated when I reported such excesses to them. But were they sincere when they gave me that all-purpose answer, "That happens in other groups but not in ours"? It was in their group, however, in the suburbs of Paris, that I found myself at the prayer meeting of the youth club where I was due to speak an hour later. What I saw and heard there defies all description. These next lines are written before God. I employ the expression used four times by Paul, "I speak the truth, I do not lie". The only comparison capable of conveying what I witnessed on that evening is this: One day I stopped my car in the parking area of a huge supermarket, having been attracted by the animal wagons of a circus. I arrived at the big catsí feeding time. It was frightening to hear them roar. The prayer meeting that I am referring to was just that: clamouring, roaring, vociferations where everyone seemingly wanted to shout louder than all the others, so much so that I found myself counter-praying inwardly in opposition to it. I was appalled; I left the place feeling sick to my stomach. Within a few decibels, I have personally undergone this devastating experience on two more occasions.
Elsewhere again, twenty-five years before the "Toronto blessing" was even heard of, in a place supposedly quite dignified and moderate, definitely not like those "other" churches, during the Sunday morning service a woman was seized by a strident "spiritual" laugh. The pastor, whom you would have taken for a model of moderation, confirmed this "spiritual laughter" and encouraged all the congregation to laugh, "Laugh, laugh in the Holy Spirit". Laughter then burst out here and there until the whole assembly started laughing. Everybody laughed, except one lady, who must not have been receptive to the Spirit on that morning. She was my wife!
(*1) Donald Gee, Les Dons Spirituels pp. 75.
Now we come to the expression so often cited, "He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself" (I Cor.14:4). It would therefore be a gift for oneís personal edification and, since we all need edification, everyone should have this gift. Taken out of its context this is what this half-sentence seems to mean. However, do we have the right to extract the two words edifies himself from chapters 12, 13 and 14 and to give them a sense contrary to their context? What is the central idea, the common thread running through these three chapters? Others, the common good, the church assembly. What is continually emphasized is the good of others, the edification of others. It keeps recurring like a leitmotif: the others, the others, the others, in different forms:
- 12:7 - "... now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good..."
- 12:25 - "... but that each part should have equal concern for each other"
- 14:3 - "... but everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort."
- 14:4 - "... he edifies the church."
- 14:5 - "... so that the church may be edified."
- 14:6 - "... what good will I be to you?"
- 14:7 - "... how will anyone know...?"
- 14:8 - "... who will get ready...?"
- 14:9 - "... how will anyone know...?"
- 14:16 - "... how can one who does not understand say Ďamení?"
- 14:16 - "... since he does not know what you are saying."
- 14:17 - "... the other man is not edified."
- 14:19 - "... to instruct others..."
- 14:26 - "... must be done for the strengthening of the church."
- 14:31 - "... so that everyone may be instructed..."
- 14:31 - "... so that everyone may be encouraged."
- All of chapter 13 deals with love which is, par excellence, a fruit for others, since a tree does not bear fruit for itself.
Here, right in the middle of this altruism expressed everywhere as the PURPOSE of all the gifts of the Spirit, comes the best specimen of self-centredness ever imagined: the case of someone who was no longer edifying others but just himself, something Paul condemns in I Cor.13:5, "(love) is not self seeking". How petty! Giving a sign to oneself. Taking back to oneself a gift that God was giving as a blessing to others. How childish, as Paul tells them in verse 20 of the following chapter! For it is certainly in a tone of reproach that Paul writes that he who speaks in tongues edifies only himself. It is significant that Paul, in the same sentence, contrasts the prophet with the speaker in tongues. Whereas the latter edifies only himself, "he who prophesies, speaks to men, edifying them and the church" (14:3,4). In contrasting the two gifts, the Holy Spirit is not implying that the prophet is not edifying himself as well as others. He also benefits from his gift but he is not edifying himself alone.
There is no gift that does not carry within itself, its own source of edification. The pastor edifies himself too when he cares for the Lordís flock, but he is not feeding only himself, he is feeding others. The teacher is not edifying only himself when he expounds the doctrine, he is edifying others. The evangelist too is stimulated by his gift, but it is his audience who receives the main benefit. If the Spirit so contrasts the results of the one who prophesies with those of the one who speaks in tongues it is because, not only does the first edify the church, as opposed to the second who is edifying only himself, but in addition, the latter could well be thought to be a barbarian by the uninitiated (14:11). In effect, Paul is saying to the Corinthians that he who prophesies reaches the goal: edifying other people; whereas he who speaks in tongues, as we have seen, misses the target altogether. For his part Peter confirms that the only possible goal is, "Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others" (I Peter 4.10).
John Stott, in his book From Baptism to Fullness of Life says that, "... edifying oneself does not agree with the teaching in the New Testament on edification... Are we not forced to admit that this gift had been badly misused? What would we think of a professor who gave private lessons to himself? Or of a man with a gift of healing who cured only himself? It is difficult to justify the use for personal ends of a gift given expressly for the well-being of others".
From the misinterpretation of this passage the idea, otherwise unknown in Scriptures, was born that one could speak in tongues to oneself, at home. But even then, not a line, not a word, not even an allusion, supports this interpretation. How could God give this gift for private use when He intends it to be used in public for a clearly designated category of people? To exercise this gift in private... why, that would be a negation of the sign and of its function. Could you imagine the evangelist Billy Graham running an evangelistic campaign in his bedroom, with no audience except his own reflexion in the mirror of his dressing table? Could you see him on the pretext of personal edification, preaching salvation just to himself and then, nevertheless, inviting people to come forward who were not even present? It is possible that he might get something out of it, but such a pantomine would be frankly absurd. Could you imagine that Paul, having written his thirteen epistles, the proof of his apostleship, would then have kept them for his own edification, reading them in private during his many journeys? In the same way to make utterances in tongues in private is like giving a sign to... no one. Could you see a Pentecostal preacher exercising his supposed gift of healing all alone in private while making the pretence of laying his hands on sick people who were not there? Would that not be to make a mockery of the words of the Lord Jesus, "These are the signs... they will lay their hands on the sick...", but if the sick are not there, the sign is like a flywheel flailing the air. The same goes for speaking a foreign language to the Hebrews. If THIS PEOPLE of the Hebrews is not there to see the sign that is specifically destined for them, then it makes no sense. Just imagine that in a game of ten-pin bowling the skittles were removed? Without them the game would be a farce. In the same way, speaking in tongues by oneself, without the object (the unbelieving Jews), is like playing bowls without the jack or, better still, like playing tennis with no player on the other side of the net!
Traffic lights are signals for road-users, what would we think of the road traffic authorities if they removed the lights from the cross-roads to put them in the town hall basements and then met there among themselves to watch them work within the four walls? Using the lights elsewhere than at intersections or crossings would make no sense. Similarly, what could be the purpose of speaking in tongues in private, out of sight of THIS PEOPLE for whom the sign was intended? For this is just what this sign was meant for. Since Pentecost the red lights had turned green for all the languages of the earth to unite with the redeemed Jews and to offer praise to the Saviour of all men.
By using this sign in private, some think they can profit from ONE of its aspects, while ignoring the others, but you cannot dismantle a gift and retain only one of its components. A car is a complex mechanical object that is driven as an entity or is not driven at all. You cannot take the wheels for a run and leave the body and the engine in the garage. When a car is running it is the whole car that moves. In the same way, tongues were not to be sliced up like a sausage. They were to edify the speaker AND the others AND be a sign for the Jewish unbelievers AND be understandable or be so rendered by interpretation. They had to be all that at the same time. The gift was inseparable from its one and only unchanging purpose: to be a sign for non-believing Jews of the universal offer of salvation (Acts 2:17).
Some people think that they have glimpsed the possibility of exercising that charisma in private when Paul says that if there is no interpreter in the church, the speaker should keep quiet and "speak to himself and God" (I Cor.14:28). Unfortunately for them, the idea of speaking in tongues is not to be found in these words. In order to find it, you must add it in and so tamper with the text. Paul could scarcely have imagined that since he had just finished saying, "tongues are a sign... for unbelievers" (14:22). Being a vocally audible sign, how could anyone address unbelievers verbally when he is talking silently in secret to himself and God? !
Someone, after reading my book, said to me, "for you it all boils down to being a sign." Of course it does! Take a sign-post for instance; you may discourse at length on its height, its shape, the colour, the phosphorescence and size of its letters, but however accurate your remarks may be, it is impossible to get around the fact that its sole and ultimate purpose is to be a sign-post. And so is it with speaking in tongues. However you may look at it, the Holy Spirit said it was a SIGN for incredulous Israel.In this matter as in others, it can be seen that the rules of the game are not being followed. In place of the divine rules, he who speaks in tongues in private has substituted his own. The gravity of this can be weighed in the light of II Timothy 2:5, "... the athlete does not receive the victorís crown unless he competes according to the rules".
THE END OF SPEAKING IN TONGUES
In the introduction we saw the severe condemnation, by conservative Pentecostals, of what they called the false charismatic doctrines. The same points in their own doctrine, analysed by their own methods, have already revealed seven important errors.
1. The words spoken in tongues were never addressed to men.
2. Speaking in tongues was not a sign for believers.
3. It was a sign for unbelieving Jews.
4. It was not an incomprehensible language.
5. Present-day interpretation is a hoax.
6. The fact that Jesus was not a speaker of tongues reinforces the truth of a sign addressed exclusively to "this people".
7. Private use of tongues is unknown in the Scriptures. This would be a negation of its purpose: to be a sign for unbelievers.
Let us first proceed by deduction. Points 3 and 6 alone would be sufficient to prove, according to what the Spirit says, that the gift ceased to exist a long time ago. This is what Augustine observed in his time and understood very well. He wrote, "It was a sign appropriate to that era. It was meant to announce the coming of the Holy Spirit on people of all tongues, to demonstrate that the Gospel was to be announced to every language on earth. This happened to announce something, then disappeared". (Homilies on the first epistle of John).
This is so clear and logical that it seems self-evident. The early Church was becoming less and less Jewish and more and more composed of people of all languages, and therefore more and more convinced that the offer of salvation was universal. Once this was fully acknowledged, there was no one left to convince that God so loved "the world", and not only Israel. The Lord was more than the God of those who spoke Hebrew; He was also the God of those who spoke other languages. As this truth was no longer doubted or questioned in the Church (and even in the world), the charisma that was its sign had no longer any reason to exist. God withdrew it, as He pulled up into heaven the sheet that had appeared three times to Peter because there was no longer any need for it. Preserving a sign that no longer signals anything to anyone is the equivalent of keeping "Proceed Slowly" signs up on a road where the roadworks finished a long time ago. It would only cause confusion in driversí minds.
A Bit More Bible Knowledge If You Please
For many ardent supporters of speaking in tongues, what exasperates them the most is the suggestion that some gifts of the Spirit, which were so useful in the apostolic Church, might no longer exist, although the Church continues to exist. They say that if the Church in the earlier times needed them, how much more does the Church that has reached the difficult end times. Alas for them, this apparent logic does not stand up to a minimum of thought and knowledge of the Scriptures.
Once when I was debating this subject with one of my good friends, he quoted the well-known verses, "Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, and today and for ever"(Heb.13:8) and "For Godís gifts and His call are irrevocable" (Rom.11:29). In his eyes, everything written in the Bible was valid today as well as all the gifts of yesteryear. I asked him if he had had his son circumcised in keeping with the Scriptures and if he offered the required sacrifices for the Lordís feast days? Taken aback by the question, he admitted that he had spoken in haste, for whilst it is true that the Word of God remains forever, some of its teaching is no longer applicable in the present dispensation. He still, however, defended his main argument by saying that certainly some practices in the Old Testament no longer concerned us, but that this was not true of the New Testament, which we have to accept as a whole, in particular the words of Jesus. Opening my Bible, I asked him to explain Jesusí words in Matt:10.5 where He sends off the twelve with the precise recommendation, "Do not go among the Gentiles", which meant not to preach the Gospel to anyone other than the Jews.
"Do you accept these words of the Lord for yourself today?" After a momentís thought he replied that he had never thought about it.
"So these words of the unchanging Lord are no longer relevant?"
I then asked him if the most authentic and verifiable gift of all still existed, that of adding pages of knowledge and inspired prophecy to the Bible, a gift that was so useful in the building up of the early Church?
"So then you believe that God has removed this gift? (*1)"
"In your opinion, does the Bible say that this gift has ceased to exist?"
"No, not to my knowledge."
"And yet you believe that it has ceased to exist? So you believe that this gift of the Spirit ceased although the Bible does not say that it has ceased. Tell me why you refuse to believe that the gift of tongues has ceased when the Bible says that tongues will cease? (I Cor.13:8)."
As for the discontinuance of biblical inspiration, Pentecostalism shares the doctrinal position common to all evangelical circles, but with many of them, we discover a kind of reticence to talk about it. Why is that? Because if the Holy Spirit has taken away the most obvious charisma of all, a breach is thus made in their line of defence; there is no longer anything that can oppose the biblical idea that others have also ceased. Besides, the same Spirit that accompanied His baptism with a great wind and tongues of fire has also discontinued these two manifestations for we find them nowhere repeated in subsequent biblical events. One can therefore no longer call on that specious argument that consists of saying that if the first century Church needed these two particular manifestations, how much more does todayís Church; neither can it be said that if those signs occurred in the past, they absolutely have to be seen today. God removed them very early on after giving them, and we have to accept that. So if the Church has quite happily done without "tongues of fire" and "a great wind" and "written inspiration" for nineteen centuries, and still does not see them today (and this goes for the Pentecostal churches as well), then it is because the Church can do without them. It is proof that some gifts and their signs were not permanent.
Let us pass from logical deduction to the texts. The question that comes naturally to mind is, "When were the tongues supposed to cease?" The idea accepted in Pentecostal and charismatic circles is that the cessation of the gift of tongues is linked to the phrase in I Cor.13:10, "when perfection (or that which is perfect) comes", this perfection being, according to them, the return of Jesus Christ, but nowhere in the Bible do we find it written that tongues will cease at the coming of perfection! You only have to read the Word of God slowly and calmly. Everything is crystal clear in verses 8 and 9 of chapter 13, which are often given a backwards explanation. It says in verse 8:
1. Prophecies will cease,
2. Tongues will be stilled (or will not continue),
3. Knowledge (*2) will pass away.
This is very clear. Without any transition, verse 9 that follows tells us what will disappear when perfection has come. Let us read carefully.
1. We know in part (gift of knowledge).
2. We prophesy in part (gift of prophecy).
What has happened to the gift of tongues? It is not there any more! Someone wrote to us that it was true that it was not there, but it was just as if it were! It is to be feared that some people would introduce it mentally in verse 9 in order to persuade themselves that this gift, like the other two, remains until that which is perfect has come. But the end of tongues IS NOT linked, like the other two, to the arrival of that perfection. The Holy Spirit never said it nor taught it. On the contrary, He teaches, as we have emphasized over and over again, that this gift is linked with something entirely different. It is linked to the PURPOSE for which God gave it. And this purpose was fully accomplished when it was fully acknowledged in the Church that the "languages, tribes, peoples and nations" were to enter into the New Covenant on the same basis as "this people". With this fact becoming so obvious, universally believed, accepted and, above all, no longer contested by anyone, this sign had no longer any reason to exist. The "tongues of fire" fizzled out, not at the arrival of "perfection" but through want of their natural fuel: the presence of "this people" and their natural unbelief in accepting the salvation of other peoples. As everyone knows, stars can only be seen and are only useful at night. They dim as daylight dawns. In the same way, tongues were only useful in the obscurantism of an Israel rooted in its unbelief concerning the election of people who spoke foreign languages.
Recently, in an attempt to trap me, one of the main charismatic leaders of France asked me at what date the gift of tongues ceased and what was the name of the man who used it last. Humorously, I answered this, "Tell me when and by what decree the gas lamps of our city streets were declared obsolete, and what was the name and the age of the last lamp-lighter!" Anybody knows that gas lighting came to an end naturally with the advent of the electric lamp. In the same way, tongues faded away quite simply when light was shed on the vocation of the Gentiles.
Since the Holy Spirit does not tie the cessation of the tonguesí sign with the coming of "perfection", it is superfluous to spend more time here trying to discern if "perfection" here refers to the Lord Jesus and His return, or if it means, as many think, the completion of the written revelation. Whether it be one or the other, it has no bearing whatsoever on our study. The considerations from chapter 13 that are usually brought into the debate like "the imperfect disappears", "then we shall see face to face", "then I shall know fully", etc... henceforth have no relevance to the cessation of the gift of tongues because they are not referring to it. Since the Holy Spirit in His sovereignty has removed tongues from verse 9, only linking knowledge and prophecy with the coming of perfection, who would dare to re-introduce it (thus warping the debate) as if God the Holy Spirit had "forgotten" to put it in?
Six or Three?
So as not to leave ourselves open to any future argument, we shall briefly digress and pretend that tongues are to be found in verse 9. We shall demonstrate that even so, "the arrival of perfection" cannot be synonymous with the return of Christ.
We must note that Paul does not speak about three things but SIX:
The Spirit emphasizes that, of these six, the only ones that do not cease are the last three, faith, hope and love (*3) which will continue until the return of Christ. It is impossible to express oneself more clearly. If, of these six, there are three that REMAIN, that means there are three that DO NOT REMAIN. And which ones are they? It is written in black and white: knowledge, tongues and prophecies. To persist in denying the early disappearance of these three, would be to make the Holy Spirit say: SIX THINGS REMAIN until the arrival of Jesus. Sorry, says Paul! Of the six, there are only three that are going to go right on to the end; the others are not going to remain, they are going to stop some time before. And when are they going to stop? Since the coming of this perfection is situated much before the return of Christ, which is found only at the end of the passage with the THREE THAT REMAIN, the first expression can in no way mean the day of His coming. Because, if that is what it means, then we have to alter the Word of God and impose a modification that some people have already carried out mentally: SIX THINGS REMAIN!!! The Holy Spirit said THREE. We have to choose.
What Does "Perfect" Mean?
Before bringing this chapter to a close, we shall deal with one last objection that will allow us to explain the meaning of "when perfection comes". Some people say that if tongues have ceased, the gifts of knowledge and prophecy have likewise been withdrawn. This is something we can happily accept and shall explain why.
When Paul wrote these lines (verse 8), the canon of Scriptures had not been finalised. Nearly all the New Testament, including three of the four gospels still had to be written. What is the Word of God composed of? Of the knowledge that it transmits and the prophecies it reveals. At the time when these two basic elements of the Christian faith were not yet sealed within the New Testament, the Spirit gave spontaneous words of knowledge and equally spontaneous prophetic edification during the meetings of the early Church (I Cor.12:8). Paul, along with some others, by their inspired writings would acquaint us with the Lord and His teaching and give us all the prophetic revelations necessary for the development of our spiritual lives. This knowledge and these prophecies, even in writings, are only partial (Jn.21:25; I Cor 19:3), but fully sufficient for our salvation and edification, God having not deemed it useful to tell us more, either about His Son or about the future. However, once complete knowledge and all the prophecies, even partial, had been recorded in the New Testament, these two charismas themselves came to an end. With the completion of the canon of Scriptures, "that which is perfect" had arrived. The various testimonies of the perfection of the Bible can all be summed up in that marvellous verse 96 in Psalm 119, "To all perfection I see a limit, but your commands (the Word) are boundless". Such is this perfection that for one thousand nine hundred years, nothing has been added to it. We only have knowledge and prophecies of a secondary nature; they can merely comment on the originals. They provide an explanation, an interpretation that can add nothing more to what has been written; their inspirational value can in no way be compared to the originals, otherwise they would have to be added to the Bible. There can be a prophecy like that of Agabus that announced a famine (Acts 11:28) but that has nothing to do with the prophets of whom Paul writes, "You are... built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone". So there is foundational knowledge and prophecy to which no one can add anything more. Led by the Spirit of God, Paul said that they would cease at the coming of perfection and they did. With the arrival of perfect revelation, every Christian can say along with Paul that it stopped with the last lines written by the author of the Book of Revelation. This is what Dr. Scofield says in his commentary on I Cor 14:11, "The New Testament prophet was not a simple preacher, but an inspired preacher who communicated the revelations corresponding to the new dispensation (I Cor. 14:29-30) until the writing of the New Testament was finished".
Like the Serpent of Brass
The snake of brass was made by Moses on Godís orders (Numb.21:9). It was a divine gift, a power of God for the benefit of those who had believed the Word of God. The Lord Jesus would later mention it during His memorable talk to Nicodemus. He even went so far as to draw a striking parallel between Himself, His work and the bronze snake, "Just as Moses lifted the snake in the desert, so the Son of man must be lifted up" (Jn.3:14). This bronze snake had been piously preserved by the Israelites for centuries. What did the good King Hezekiah do with it? "He removed the high places,... broke into pieces the bronze snake THAT MOSES HAD MADE, because the children of Israel had up until then been burning incense in front of it" (II Kings 18:4). This snake had become a stumbling block for Israel although it was the same snake as in the past. It was not a rigged copy, an imitation of the real thing. It was the real one, the right one, the original one. Its primary function, that of being looked at, had even been embellished and enriched over the centuries. Its contemplation was accompanied by perfumed offerings. Under the pretense of attachment to an unchanging God, it had ended up taking the place of God and it had become an idol like the others. We can be sure that whoever it was who denounced the outmoded usage of the snake did not meet with unanimous agreement from the folks around him! The fans of the bronze snake were able to quote historical, biblical and doubtless empirical facts. They could argue that the God who had commanded the casting of the snake does not change because He remains the same yesterday, today and forever; that what happened in the desert could still happen in their time; that the power of God had not changed and, above all, that not a single word had been said concerning the end of its power, use and usefulness.
In fact, the spiritual practices that centered round this relic had become an abomination. For a growing number of people today, tongues are also a relic that they carry in their hearts, which they talk about incessantly, and to which they offer their undying devotion. They defend it by saying that it was God who gave it. But God also gave the serpent of brass, for one particular occasion, for a limited time. Beyond this time limit, it was out-of-date, like goods or medicine that have past the expiry date and become dangerous; the healing turns into infection. That is what happened with the bronze snake; their spiritual life had become infected by it. When the snake was taken away from them, you can be sure that many people saw a decline in their spiritual ardour for they no longer had anything tangible to hang on to. I also understand why some cling so frenetically to speaking in tongues. Their spiritual life is so poor, so little Bible-based, that if they lose that, there is nothing left for them.
During their forty years in the desert, the Israelites received that gift from heaven known as manna, the bread from above that came down to earth, six days out of seven. This gift was a sign, proof in anticipation, that a rich harvest awaited them in Canaan. This lasted forty years, but the manna ceased as soon as they arrived in the Promised Land. The God who gave it to them took it away from them. Why? Because henceforth they had the harvest of the land. The gift was a sign as well as a foretaste of things to come,and when what was promised became a reality, it ceased to exist. In the same way that the manna proclaimed the harvests in Canaan, the gift of tongues proclaimed to the Jews the harvest of the Gentiles. Just as the manna did not continue, neither did the gift of tongues continue when the harvest of the Gentiles became a fact that no one could deny or confront.
Let us move now from biblical illustration to doctrine:
I. The judgement (*4) on unbelieving Israel that was announced by the speaking-in-tongues sign (Isa.28:11-13; I Thess. 2:6; I Cor.14:21) dramatically came upon them with the fall of Jerusalem in the year 70 A.D. and the beginning of the world-wide Diaspora of the Jewish people.
II. The massive entry of foreign-speaking people into the Church, which was announced by the speaking of foreign languages, took place in parallel with the setting aside and the judgement of Israel. The signís purpose was entirely fulfilled. Just as accomplished as the great "It is finished" of the cross that forbade any repetition of the same sacrifice. Neither are tongues perpetuated, in accordance with what the Holy Spirit prophesied, "Tongues will be stilled" (I Cor.13:8).
(*1) Some people think that the end of the inspiration of the Bible is referred to in Rev.22:18, but this verse concerns only "the prophecy of THIS book". The same interdiction about adding anything to the Law can be found in Deut.12:33. Yet numerous books have been added to the Pentateuch. The reason for the discontinuation of biblical inspiration is found elsewhere, but that would take us beyond the framework of our study.
(*2) In an attempt to prove that the gift of knowledge still exists, some attribute to it the meaning of clairvoyance and prophetic revelation, as for example, knowing a hidden fact or situation or sin, which would then be revealed by a so-called word of "knowledge". The word "knowledge" (gnosis in Greek), which we find 28 times in the New Testament, is never used in this particular sense. It is always understood in the sense of "intelligent knowledge" or "science": - I Cor.8:1 - "Now about food sacrificed to idols: we know that we all possess knowledge". - I Cor.8:10,11 - "So the weak brother... is destroyed by your knowledge". - I Cor.14:6 - "... if I come to you and speak in tongues, what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction"? This last verse gives us adequate proof that knowledge is something other than prophecy, or revelation, or some kind of clairvoyance.
(*3) Love being eternal, will never cease to exist. Faith and hope will cease to exist when the Lord returns, when faith becomes sight and hope becomes reality (II Cor.5:7; Rom.8:24,25).
(*4) See Chapter 10: Tongues of fire.
THE SEVENFOLD BLESSING OF THE SPIRIT
As the Bible is divinely inspired, the words that have been chosen are always those that are best suited to communicate the truths that God wants to convey to us. Where particular expressions are used, we are not free to mix them up or talk about them as if they were interchangeable or synonymous. We shall see this in relation to the sevenfold blessing of the Spirit.
1. The GIFT of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 2:38 we read, "Repent and be baptised, 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 Spirit was the GIFT from the Father to the Church, and, it goes without saying, to each individual believer, according to the promise reiterated by Jesus in Acts 1:8. This promise was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost. That is a historical fact. The Holy Spirit was given, as the inheritance was given to Abraham and Israel, as a gift from God to His people. But although God had given the entire inheritance to Israel all at once, Moses said, "Every place where you set your foot will be yours" (Deut.11:24). How could he say that if it already belonged to them as a divine gift? Because it is necessary to distinguish between inheritance and possession. The inheritance was everything that God gave to Israel without reserve; the possession was what they seized hold of. The same is true for the Holy Spirit; God has already given Him to us and cannot give Him to us again, even if there is a sense in which, having received the gift, we have to make this inheritance our own. Wherever there is a donor, there has to be a recipient. And so the gift, like salvation, only becomes personal property when we accept it. We therefore have to appropriate it, to make it ours, by faith as it says in Gal.3:2,14, "It is by faith that we received the Holy Spirit which had been promised" (see also Acts 10:43,44).
2. The SEAL of the Spirit. "Having believed, you were marked with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit..." (Eph.1:13), "with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption" (Eph.4:30). Sealed by Him who is the GIFT and the SEAL. It is significant that this should be said to the Ephesians. Ephesus was a seaport animated by a large timber industry. Dealers bought tree trunks that were then floated downriver to their destination. As they bought their lots of wood, they would stamp the trunks with a seal that proved their ownership until the day that they could collect (redeem) them. So the SEAL is presented to us, not with emphasis on the initial effect of redemption, but on the final aspect, the glorification of our bodies. Although that day has not yet dawned, every child of God bears the SEAL indicating that he is the assured property of God.
3. The INDWELLING of the Spirit. "Donít you know that you yourselves are Godís temple and that Godís Spirit lives (or dwells) in you?" (1 Cor.3:16). In the upper room, Jesus told His disciples, speaking of the Spirit, "He lives with you and will be in you" (Jn.14:17). Was He not in them yet? The Holy Spirit was at work in the Old Testament. He came upon Godís people and He took hold of some of them for special service, but He did not live in them as He does under the New Covenant. What distinguishes the new dispensation from the old one, is that the believer has received the Spirit of adoption (Rom.8:15) so that his body becomes the permanent inner dwelling-place of the Spirit. And this, regardless of his spiritual level or character. We must remember that this passage appears in the letter to the church of Corinth and we know what state that church was in; the quality of life was mediocre, the churchís witness was very poor and the members themselves were guilty of moral and doctrinal errors. Paul did not encourage them to seek this indwelling of the Spirit; he acknowledges it as a "fait accompli", and he used that truth to invite the Corinthians to lead a Christian life more noble and befitting of this indwelling. Moreover, no warning is given us that might cause us to believe that He could one day leave us. We can sadden Him and reduce Him to silence by our sins, but we cannot dislodge Him from our innermost beings. God has made us His very own by the indwelling of His own Spirit.
4. The EARNEST of the Spirit. II Cor.1:22 and Eph.1:14 say that the Spirit of the promise is the "deposit", or "guarantee", or "first-fruits" of our inheritance. His presence in us is a foretaste of what is to come. The spies who were sent to explore Canaan gave a report to Moses, and brought back the grapes of Eschol. These grapes were the first-fruits of what awaited the people on their arrival in the Promised Land. It was both the proof of and a sample of what was reserved for them. In the same way, the Holy Spiritís presence is the evidence, a foretaste, a sample, a deposit of what awaits us. However rich our experiences may have been in the Holy Spirit, the most blessed moments are a mere foretaste. In other words, for a believer, the best is yet to come. How sad it is for a man when his best years are behind him! But for those of us who believe in Christ, this is never the case, the best lies ahead of us.
5. The ANOINTING of the Spirit. "Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He ANOINTED us..." (II Cor.1:21). Anointing signifies a setting apart for service. The practice was carried out on various objects used in worship (Exodus 30:26-29). In the Old Testament, priests, kings and prophets were anointed for the ministry imparted to them. With the Lord Jesus, the anointing was not physical, it came directly from the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:18; Acts 10:38). He was set apart for the triple ministry of Priest, King and Prophet. Those who have been redeemed by Him, having been set apart for God, as kings and priests (1 Pe.2:5,9), have also received a spiritual anointing (II Cor.1:21) by the coming of the Spirit of adoption into their hearts. What is more, it is written in I John 2:20,27, "The anointing you received from Him remains in you", but we can go and bury the talent as well as the anointing that accompanies it. We can flee from our responsibilities like Saul, who tried to escape his duties by hiding among the baggage, despite the fact that he had received a royal anointing. Or worse still, we can serve God in a spirit that is in opposition to the anointing we have received, as King Saul did in a later incident. His service to God was tainted by so much disobedience that his anointing, though it had been irrevocably bestowed, became so ineffective that God had to abandon him. What a difference when this Eternal Anointing finds in the believer He fills an obedient and consecrated instrument! It is then that springs of living waters well up in blessings for himself and others.
6. The FULLNESS of the Spirit. "Do not be drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead be filled with the Spirit" (Eph.5:18). Since the Holy Spirit is a person, we cannot receive less than His person and the fullness that He represents. It is worth noting that the fullness of the Spirit is given to the believer right from the start of his new life as is mentioned in Jn.3:34, "... for God gives the Spirit without limit" (or "measure" -J.N.Darby). The believer is called to live according to such fullness. If God has not limited the giving of His Spirit to you, then you should not either! It is as if a tramp who inherited all of a sudden a fortune, insisted on staying in his rags. We could say to him, "Now that you are rich, be rich! Put all that wealth into your lifestyle! Donít be princes dressed like tramps, be princes!" Sadly enough it is possible to be a Christian without tasting or reflecting the practical fullness of the Spirit. My eternal salvation will not be compromised, but many areas of my life will be affected. Someone will ask, "Do you mean that it is possible for a real believer to live and die and go to heaven, without ever knowing the fullness of the Spirit?" I answer without a momentís hesitation, "Yes!" What then does that exhortation mean, to be filled with the Spirit? It means quite simply to let the Spirit take possession of you and guide you. If a glass is filled with water, the water takes possession of the glass but that does not control it and the comparison goes no further, but when the Holy Spirit fills, there is an added idea of inner guidance along with the filling. If I only give half myself to Him, it is highly likely that the other half of me will not come under His control. How do we become filled with the Spirit? A lot of preaching on this subject appeals to our emotions rather than to our intelligence. Faith, however, must have an intellectual foundation; we need to know what is required of us and how to accomplish it. Being filled with the Holy Spirit means that He takes your mind and thinks with it, that He takes your heart and feels with it, that He takes your conscience and judges with it, that He takes your will and decides with it, that He takes your whole being and uses it as He wishes. This can happen without the slightest hint of emotion. None of these blessings depend on any rapturous sentiment. Some people are more emotional than others; do the latter feel more frustrated than the former? Not a bit. All the peoples of the world, whether they be Latin, Saxon, Slav or any other, can calmly understand what is required of them, and open their lives up to the fullness of the Spirit.
7. The BAPTISM of the Spirit. Each one of the gifts we have just covered comes from the Holy Spirit alone. If He has differentiated between them, it is so that we may not confuse them. I am sure that God will forgive us if we call the above-cited blessing "baptism" instead of "fullness", but let us, please, put some order into our labelling. Let us not stick the label of a good Burgundy wine on an excellent Bordeaux. The substance of these two "vins de France" would not be affected, but the confusion would be intolerable. The word of God, according to Heb.4:12 is living and active, it is sharp, it penetrates and divides. Each of its labels is specific; so if we really want to talk about the baptism of the Spirit, we must respect its precise specificity. The baptism is not the gift, nor the seal, nor the indwelling, nor the first-fruits, nor the anointing, nor the fullness, even if they entered the world together, and are organically associated. A child does not enter the world in interchangeable spare parts. He would be a little monster if we were to say that his head walks, his feet think, his liver breathes and his lungs see. "Everything in its place and a place for everything", my father used to say. In the complex work of the Holy Spirit, what is the place, the role and the objective of this baptism?
A. Where to Situate It in Time?
First of all, let us look at its place in time. It is not superfluous to say again that whenever it is mentioned, in each of the Gospels and the first chapter of Acts, it is always in the future, "He will baptise you". But after Acts 1, it is only noted in reference to the past. This observation appears insignificant at first glance, but it will assume a place of importance in the debate. Having deliberately set aside my personal convictions and previous research into the subject, I set out on a quest for anything and everything available on this precise point. Without a single exception, all the commentaries said the same thing, except, of course, in the books written by the Pentecostals, where this truth would never in a million years be brought to light. It is not that it is forgotten, it is because there is a determined will to ignore it. There is a total blackout. Charismatic circles of every denomination teach that the believer must seek the baptism of the Spirit. But the Bible places this baptism in the believerís past, even for immature believers like those in Corinth. And not only had they been baptised in the Spirit, but it had happened to ALL of them. If there is a baptism that exists that a Christian might not have had, and ought to try to obtain, surely there would be something said in the Scriptures, and there would be some passages exhorting Christians to seek it out and receive it, but we do not find any. Whereas God exhorts us to do everything possible to:
-- be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18);
-- make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit (Eph.4:3);
-- keep in step with the Spirit (Gal. 5:25);
-- not grieve the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30);
-- not put out the Spiritís fire (I Thess. 1:19), never do we find a similar recommendation for the baptism of the Spirit. We are encouraged neither to look for it, nor to "await" it. This baptism is like marriage or salvation, once it has taken place it is lived out every day; never again does it need to be acquired or sought. Paul wrote, "You were ALL baptised by one Spirit" to the church in Corinth which was living far below the norm of Christian life. The tense used excludes any possibility of error concerning the moment of the event in question. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Acts 1 look ahead; I Cor.12:13 looks back. Where do the two rendezvous? Without any possible shadow of a doubt, it is at Pentecost.
B. Is the Baptism of the Spirit a Second Experience?
If this doctine is the foundation of the whole Pentecostal system, it is worth noting that not everyone in their group regards the matter in the same light. A very dear friend who is a Pentecostal pastor ministering in the more moderate edges of the movement, assured me that he did not consider the baptism of the Holy Spirit to be a second experience, but rather the moment when the believer becomes a part of the body of Christ. As for the teaching that speaking in tongues is the first, or necessary, or obvious sign of this baptism, a few timid voices are raised from within their group to disagree with that claim, but they are as yet the exception. Concerning the "second" experience, the book of Acts will first of all, give us some information.
a) At Pentecost. Chapter 2
It is at Pentecost, and not several weeks earlier in John 20:22, that the disciples had their first experience of the gift of the Spirit. It could not possibly be otherwise, as the Holy Spirit had never been given in this way before that special day. This is clearly expressed in John 7:38 and 39, "... streams of living water will flow from within him. By this He meant the Spirit whom those who believed in Him were later to receive. Up until that time the Spirit had not yet been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified". So it is only after His glorification that Jesus gave the Spirit, and not before. From this doctrinal and chronological observation, there is no longer any difficulty in understanding John 20:22, where, before rising into heaven, He breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit". This was a prophetic promise whose imminent fulfillment is recorded in the verse, "Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind (breath) came from heaven..." (Acts 2:2). It would be superfluous to quote all the best commentators in an attempt to be more convincing (among others Campbell Morgan, J. MacArthur, Vine, Ironside, etc...) who all give similar interpretations. We are better off falling back on what a French heavyweight Pentecostal like Ph. Emirian says in his book The Gift of the Holy Spirit, page 89, "This time, I would disagree with my Pentecostal and charismatic brothers, and agree with my evangelical brothers, even if the result of the gift of the Spirit does not have the same meaning for us. I believe with them that this gesture of Jesus, on the evening of the resurrection IS NOTHING OTHER THAN A PROPHETIC GESTURE OF THE GREAT PROMISE proclaimed in the text quoted above". Emirian emphasizes that "there is no question of a new birth here". (emphasis ours). Pentecost was not, therefore, a second experience in the lives of the disciples.
b) At Corneliusí House. Chapter 10
What took place in Acts 10 is even more relevant to us, in the sense that Cornelius, the Italian centurion, is on the side of all of us since he was, like us, a foreigner from amongst the Gentiles. What happens with him is therefore the norm for the conversion experience for Gentiles. It is during his first experience, when he is converted, that the Holy Spirit comes down on him and his household as on the disciples at Pentecost. Granted, there is no great wind, or tongues of fire, but Peter insists that it is the same thing (Acts 11:15). The whole of Corneliusí household enters into the baptism of the Spirit first (v.16), and then the baptism of water (v.48).
c) The Twelve Disciples of Ephesus. Chapter 19
We find the same scenario in Acts 19, but this time with Jewish people. There were about twelve of them in all, and they were not, as some people have believed, disciples of Christ, but, as is made clear, disciples of John the Baptist, who were living on the outskirts of the church of Ephesus. Having discerned some anomalies in their behaviour, Paulís opening question to them is, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" This shows that in order to be baptised by the Spirit it is sufficient to have believed in the Lord Jesus. This ties in with Eph.1:13, which confirms, "Having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit". Their reply reveals that they were not disciples of Christ, "We have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit".
Can we imagine spending even half an hour in a Pentecostal meeting without discovering the existence of the Holy Spirit?! And these people would have lived all these years in the apostolic church without having heard of it!
When we know the emphasis that was placed on the Spirit at the beginning, it was impossible not to have heard about it. Not only had they not heard that there was a Holy Spirit, but they knew nothing at all of the Christian baptism, which is equally impossible if they were disciples of Jesus and His Word. How could have they missed a baptism administered straightway after conversion, as illustrated in the book of Acts in the following summary:
- Acts 2:41 - "Those who accepted his message were baptised".
- Acts 8:12 - "But when they believed... they were baptised".
- Acts 8:38 - The eunuch believes and is baptised.
- Acts 9:18 - Saul of Tarsus is converted and baptised.
- Acts 10:47 - Cornelius and those who heard ... are baptised.
- Acts 16:15 - Lydia opens her heart and is baptised.
- Acts 16:33 - The jailer in Philippi believes and is immediately baptised.
- Acts 19:5 - "On hearing this (ĎBelieve in Jesusí), they were baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus".
The twelve mentioned in Acts 19 were emigrant Jews, as so many were, and members of a Jewish colony that had settled in Ephesus. Apparently they had not established ties with any Christians. Things became clearer when Paul asked them what baptism they had received. "Johnís baptism", they answered. Now the penny finally drops. They were John the Baptistís disciples; they were Jewish emigrants of Asia Minor. The great doctor of the church immediately got the picture. In a few words, he explained to them what their spiritual status was, "Johnís baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the (Jewish) people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus". They believed in what John had been announcing in the desert, in a Messiah who was going to come. Through Paul they were able to believe in the One who had come. They were forthwith re-baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus. Paul then laid hands on them (for reasons we shall look at in the next paragraph), and they too received the Holy Spirit. Paulís question now found an answer. Yes, they received the Holy Spirit when they believed. Neither on this occasion, nor on the two previous ones, is the baptism of the Spirit considered to be a second experience.
d) The Samaritans. Chapter 8
The episode of the Samaritans in Acts 8 is the last one left to consider. It is the only one that seems different from the other three because there is a time lapse between the Samaritansí conversion and their receiving the Holy Spirit. This is the only place in Scripture where a semblance of truth is awarded to the second experience theory; it is the only passage that the Pentecostals can evoke to back up their doctrine. The explanation, though somewhat lengthy, is nevertheless not complicated; all it requires is to have the relevant biblical knowledge. Following the persecution of the Church in Jerusalem, and the dispersion of the disciples in Judea and Samaria, the preaching of the Gospel started to spread everywhere, and the Samaritans in particular began to be converted. Why then did they not receive the Holy Spirit like the others at the same time that they believed?
Who were the Samaritans? We touched upon the subject in chapter 3; it is now time to add some supplementary details. They were the descendants of people that the Assyrians had transplanted into the Palestinian province after deporting the indigenous population (see 2 Kings 17:6,24ff and Byronís famous poem, "The Assyrian came down like a wolf on the fold...", ("Destruction of Sennacherib"). These people had adopted the language and religion of the Jews, though their way of practising the religion was hardly orthodox. Instead of going up to the temple in Jerusalem, they had erected their own version on the mountain of Samaria (Jn.4:20), thus causing a schism, which had reached the point where Jews no longer had any relations with Samaritans (Jn.4:9). There was a religious, racial and cultural barriers between them. They hated each other. When the shortest route in a journey would mean passing through Samaria, the Jews, unlike the Lord Jesus, would not hesitate to lengthen their trip by going the long way around. The Samaritans, make no mistake about it, gave as good as they got. One evening, when Jesus and His disciples stopped in a little Samaritan village with the intention of spending the night there, no one would take them in because they were heading for Jerusalem! (Luke 9:52,56). The disciples saw red. Wanting to emulate Elijah (2 Kings 1:10,12), they asked the Lord, "Do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?" Wow! They were certainly the last ones who would have laid hands on the Samaritans for them to receive the Holy Spirit, for them to be consumed by flames, yes, but not for anything else. And no Samaritan would ever have let a despised Jew put a hand on him... The worst insult you could hurl at a Jew was to say, "You are a Samaritan" (Jn.8:48). The situation between the two factions could not have been more explosive. So, had the Samaritans received the Holy Spirit at the moment of conversion, in that state of mind, the terrible abyss that separated them would have continued into the Christian Church. IT WOULD HAVE BEEN A NEGATION OF THE BAPTISM OF THE HOLY SPIRIT of which it is written, "We were all baptised by one Spirit INTO ONE BODY!" The Samaritans had to be brought to admit that what was happening with them was not a "Samaritan Pentecost" and that there was only one birth of the Church. The Pentecost in Jerusalem was the beginning of a new era, whereas the evangelisation in Samaria was only their entering into the blessings of that era and not the inauguration of it. The episode in Samaria was part of the Churchís growth, and not its birth. It was vital that all those present in Samaria should know that there were not two bodies, two churches but only one.
A Voluntary Interval.
It is worth noting that the Samaritan believers did not "wait" for the Holy Spirit, but it was the Holy Spirit, in fact, who did the waiting for the coming of Peter and John from Jerusalem. The authority of the Jewish apostles had to be recognised beyond the culture and boundaries of Judaism. It was crucial that the Samaritans acknowledge what Jesus had said to the Samaritan woman, "Salvation is from the Jews" (Jn.4:22), as well as recognise the authority of His apostles, the depositories of the Truth. The interval, therefore, between the moment the Samaritans received Christ and when they received the Holy Spirit, is not accidental. It was deliberate because, just as the Samaritans had to see that they were dependant on the authority of the Jewish apostles, it was equally necessary for the apostles (those same apostles who wanted to pray for the fire of heaven to come down and incinerate the Samaritans) to understand that these people, with whom they had only a very brittle relationship, were to enter into the same Church, have the same Christ, the same salvation, the same God and the same Holy Spirit. This was the only meaning that Paul gave to the baptism of the Holy Spirit: to form "one body" (I Cor.12:13). By doing things in this way, the Holy Spirit brought down the barriers of bitterness and destroyed the separating wall right from the start (Eph.2:14).
This analysis holds true for the little isolated group we find in Acts 19, who were living on the periphery of the Christian and pagan circles. Laying hands on them was as necessary as in the case of the Samaritans. By this laying on of hands and by the speaking in foreign tongues that followed, they were brought to accept that they formed one body, not only with the apostles, but also with the foreign people whose language they miraculously spoke, some of whom were members of Paulís team.
Stuart Olyott, the Baptist pastor of Lausanne explains, by way of a descriptive image, why the baptism in the Spirit cannot be a second experience to supplement the first. Being born again is just like being born physically. When a baby comes into the world, he is a finished product; nothing is missing. His tiny little feet are still so tiny but maybe they will be those of an athlete; his little fists will perhaps become those of a nurse or a skilled surgeon; that little brain in that wrinkled little head may one day be that of an eminent mathematician. Would we be less complete and would our potential be less when born from above, not of the will of man but of God? Could our heavenly Father have made us less well than our earthly parents? This is what some people would have us believe. They come to see the baby and tell us, "Oh, but his lungs are missing, or his liver, or his kidneys, but donít worry, it is not serious, come to our place and we will give him a transplant!" No, thank you! When God regenerates us by His Word and His Spirit, He does not create monsters or little stunted runts. No, not a single part of the sevenfold blessing is missing for those who are born again spiritually, and especially not the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which brings about the unity of the divine family (I Cor.12:13). "You have been given fullness in Christ", says Paul (Col.2:10), and we all have this from the moment we are born again but it is necessary to develop it with the help of all that the Word is for us: milk, bread and meat, so that we may "become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ" (Eph.4:13).
The PURPOSE of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.
We have not yet tackled the crux of the doctrine on the purpose of the baptism of the Spirit. It is this purpose that will finally demonstrate without a shadow of doubt that there can be no question whatsoever of a second experience. We will base our explanation on the pattern formed by water baptism that is:
-- announced in the Gospels,
-- practised in Acts,
-- explained in the Epistles.
The same is true for the baptism of the Spirit. It, too, is announced without explanation in the Gospels; it appears in the book of Acts as the initial experience of the believer; it is explained in the Epistles. If the truth be told, we ought to write Epistles in the singular, as the only explanation given to us in the New Testament concerning this baptism is found in I Cor.12:13. It is there and only there, and nowhere else. This explains why this verse is of vital importance to our discussion here, in spite of its being passed over in silence during any discussion I have had with Pentecostal friends.
The editors of the recent ultra-Pentecostal book, Dossier on Speaking in Tongues, succeeded in getting together three authors, from among the most eminent, (A. Thomas-BrŤs, H. Horton and Donald Gee), in order to write a book of 119 pages, about the baptism of the Holy Spirit without commenting even once on the only verse in the Bible that explains it: I Cor.12:13! It is unthinkable that specialists on the subject do not know this vital text. They knowingly skirted around the only doctrinal explanation that the Holy Spirit gives concerning His baptism, in order to explain things the way they wanted to. This is about as credible as trying to explain Waterloo without mentioning Napoleon! It is what is known as cultivating to its highest degree the anti-Christian art of dissimulation and misinformation. This voluntary "oversight" is profoundly saddening, as it casts a doubt on the honesty of their scriptural exposition. It confirms the dishonesty that has already been attested by those who left the Movement because "the biblical texts that contradicted what we were taught were systematically avoided". Given that I Co.12:13 is a rectification of all Pentecostal teaching on the subject, it is understandable that they have declared a war of silence against it.
On page 49 of the same book, H. Horton comes up with a shrewd concoction of untruths and inaccurate quotations, wrapped up in evangelical wording. "If you study the Epistles carefully, you will inevitably come to the conclusion that they were written by Christians who were all filled with the Holy Spirit"... Up to this point, we can still follow him, but he goes on, "... and as a consequence, spoke or had spoken other languages". Where did he get that from? As if the inspired writing of the New Testament depended on the exercising of the gift of tongues! By this yardstick, Jesus would never been able to write an epistle and even less inspire one, since he never spoke in tongues. Neither could He have experienced the fullness of the Spirit. The argument has gone completely off the rails! But there is worse to come. Horton backs up what he says by making reference to I Cor.12.13, which he takes pains not to write down nor to give any explanation for, as it does not fit in with what he has just said. He counts on the unlikelihood of the readerís interrupting his/her reading to check the reference. Is this honest?
Let us examine the purpose of the baptism of the Holy Spirit more closely. What does the apostle of the nations say about it, inspired by the Spirit? "We were all baptised by one Spirit..." For what purpose?
To have access to the gifts of the Spirit? No!
To achieve personal edification? No!
To speak in tongues? No!
To have a more powerful testimony? No!
So for what reason, then? We simply need to read the text, "We were all baptised by one Spirit into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free". There is the reason, the PURPOSE: to form this body, by gathering together those who constitute it, in other words, men and women of every language, (Jews and Greeks), born again of the Holy Spirit. In the whole scope of the New Testament there is scarcely any other truth that is expressed more simply and that is easier to understand than this one. I have done my utmost to try to understand it differently, but to no avail.
What surprised me in all the commentaries I have been able to consult was one particular oversight , which is even more astonishing since it is of capital importance for the understanding of the text. In the first twenty words that make up the essential part of the verse, there are four, (one fifth of the text), which are seemingly forgotten by the analysts... "whether Jews or Greeks". It is like skipping over a fifth of John 3:16, and saying, for example, "For God so loved the world that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life", so leaving out "that He gave His one and only son". The impact of the text would be weakened as a result of this missing dimension. This is what the commentators do with I Cor.12:13; a fifth of the phrase seems to escape their grasp. The result is that their vision of tongues, like their vision of the baptism of the Spirit, is clouded and incomplete because they fail to see the full picture. The "whether Jews or Greeks" is the missing piece that permits a correct interpretation of speaking in tongues and of the baptism of the Spirit. These two truths are inter-related but not in the way that Pentecostalism explains it. The "whether Jews or Greeks" takes us to Jerusalem, to that day when Peter explained the convergence of tongues and the baptism they had just received, by quoting the verse, "I will pour out my Spirit"... On Jews alone? No! "On all people". That means people of every culture, be they Jewish or Greek. Given that the term "Greeks" covers all that is non-Jewish, the "whether Jews or Greeks" brings us once again to Peterís vision, which had a significance similar to that of speaking in tongues. The "whether Jews or Greeks", makes us realise that the baptism in the Spirit is more than the inclusion of the believer into the body of Christ; it is the acceptance of believers of every language, Jews and Greeks, and from every background, slave or free. I Cor.12:13 reads, "It is to be integrated into one body that Jews and Greeks have been baptised by one Spirit."
It was this more than anything else that the Jews did not want to believe: that foreigners, Greeks, barbarians, other languages, or in one word pagans, formed with themselves a new entity, the Church. That is what Paul says, " It is to be integrated into one body that we all, believers of every language (whether Jews of Greeks), have been baptised by one Spirit." Thus, with the baptism of the Holy Spirit placed once again in its historical context, nothing stops us from mentioning foreign languages when speaking about it, provided that we do know what that baptism really is.
Here is what Paul says elsewhere in much more detail, "Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth... remember that at that time you were separated from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel, and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world, but now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For He himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility... His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow-citizens with Godís people and members of Godís household" (Eph.2:11-19). "Although I am less than the least of all Godís people, this grace was given to me to preach... this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God..." (Eph.3:8-9). What mystery? Listen to Paulís answer in I Cor.12:13 and in Eph. 3:6, "This mystery is that... the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel".
Now please, ponder this question, "What is the name given to this act by which the Holy Spirit forms this body henceforth composed of Jews and Greeks?" The only answer is in I Cor.12:13," THE BAPTISM OF THE HOLY SPIRIT." "For we were all baptised by one Spirit into one body, whether Jews or Greeks...". THAT is the baptism of the Holy Spirit and I am rather taken aback that a fair number of evangelical commentators have not seen it. Yes, they are aiming in the right direction, but they are not quite hitting the center of the target.
The Last Words of Jesus.
In Acts 1:4-8 there is a remarkable suite of verses, which as they logically unfold, explain the same truth with the same elements. They are Jesusí last words on this earth, which make them all the more important, and they deal with the baptism of the Holy Spirit. We only have to follow through the text in the order that God has given it to discover the Lordís thought on the matter.
"On one occasion... He gave them this command, Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptised with water, but in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit." Faced with the imminence and importance of this great event, their reaction is wholly Jewish. "They asked him, Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" This is their idea of the event: Israel, always Israel, and nothing but Israel. Since this idea was the negation of the international scope of the baptism of the Spirit, the Lord rebukes them in no uncertain terms. He said to them, "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority", by this He shows them that the baptism of the Spirit is totally different from the restoration of Israel. In the phrase that follows He tells them that what constitutes the very essence of this baptism is its multi-lingual dimension. "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in JERUSALEM, and in all JUDEA and SAMARIA and TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH".
With these prophetic words of Jesus, we hear in advance Peter explaining the baptism of the Spirit and the sign of speaking in tongues, "I will pour my Spirit on all people", that is, in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, to the ends of the world.
We, also in advance, hear Paul explaining the same doctrine, "For we were all baptised by one Spirit into one body, whether Jews or Greeks", that is, in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, to the ends of the world.
These last words of our Lord are a brilliant prophetic description confirming the extraordinary doctrinal unity of His Word. And so, whatever text is used to support the argument, the baptism of the Holy Spirit is in no way a second experience, not only because nowhere in the Bible are we taught to seek it, but because, in its essence, it cannot be a second experience.
The baptism of the Holy Spirit has two phases, like the symbolism of water baptism that Paul explains in Romans 6: death and resurrection. - Phase 1: Death to sin is represented by submersion into water.- Phase 2: The resurrection with Christ to a new life is symbolised by coming up out of the water. The same is true for the baptism of the Spirit:
Phase 1: The plurality of languages and those who speak them (and who play one off against the other) are merged into the Spirit who absorbs them. Any differences and privileges are destroyed as they experience this washing of rebirth (Titus 3:5).
Phase 2: The believers come out into a new life to speak a language other than that of division, but on the contrary, one of the unity of the Body, "It is to be put into One Body that whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free, all have been baptised by one Spirit". That is the baptism of the Holy Spirit. It is that, that alone, and nothing but that.Wherever people are born again nowadays, the Holy Spirit does His work in the same way. Problems of language, (whether Jews or Greeks), and class, (slave or free), are immersed in His inward and spiritual baptism. Now that the Church is composed of every language, is there anyone to whom God still needs to make signs? To todayís Jews? But they no longer have the power to oppose world evangelism and the formation of the Church. This great affair is in the hands of converts of every people, tribe, nation and language. This sign, if it still existed, would no longer be a sign for anyone. Given that its cessation had been announced from the beginning (I Cor.13:8), it now no longer exists except in counterfeit form, as was demonstrated in chapter 5.
TONGUES OF FIRE
To the chapter about the baptism of the Spirit, we must add another shorter one on the baptism of fire to explain an aspect of speaking in tongues that is little known. Tongues were not only associated with the baptism of the Spirit (in the sense that we have just looked at it (*1)), but also with the baptism of fire.
When I was young, I was with some devoted and experienced Christian brethren. Each one knew his Bible very well and our discussions often came round to theological subjects. The oldest asked a question, "Where do we find speaking in tongues for the first time?" The answers came spontaneously and in unison, "At Pentecost". We were so sure of ourselves! But no, it was at the Tower of Babel! I was cut to the quick. Why hadnít I thought of that? Now I was really listening. I will never forget the explanation that followed. The diversity of languages at the Tower of Babel was a judgement. Now, in the Bible, there is a principle of hermeneutics called First Mention. That is to say, a truth mentioned for the first time in the Bible will keep that initial meaning right through to the end. Along the way, it can add deeper significance, or be developed, or be enriched, but the meaning it had at the start will not be effaced.
Was it possible that speaking in tongues carried with it an idea of judgement? This is, in any case, what the relevant verses affirm. The main text on speaking in tongues that Paul uses is found in Isaiah 28:11. Inspired by the Spirit, Paul freely quotes, "through men of strange tongues and through lips of foreigners I will speak to this people" (I Cor.14:21). The quotation from Isaiah continues with a detail that confirms that speaking in tongues does indeed involve judgement, "... so that they might fall backward and be broken and snared and taken". This basic truth has been missed by the whole Pentecostal movement, despite the fact that we have always read in Acts 2 that the tongues that came to rest on each of them were of FIRE. In the Scriptures fire is unquestionably a symbol of judgement. It is once more Isaiah who says it, so summing up the whole of biblical teaching on the subject, "See, the Lord is coming with fire,... and His rebuke with flames of fire" (Isaiah 66:15). II Thess.1:7-9 says, "... the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in flaming fire... He will punish... They will be punished with everlasting destruction..." In the New Testament, fire can be found, in its figurative sense, 63 times, and always as a judgement (*2).
Baptism of Fire
Even if it does have a certain purifying effect, fire always carries with it a meaning of judgement. This is clearly explained by a text that is often misunderstood and quoted in the wrong way. John the Baptist said something that is repeated five times in the New Testament, four times in the Gospels, "He (Jesus) will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and with fire". A careful reading of the texts reveals that John, Mark and Acts 1 do not speak of fire. Only Matthew and Luke speak of it because the Pharisees, Christís opponents, are present and mentioned in the context. It is because of them and for their benefit that fire is mentioned. With the opponents being absent from the scene in Mark, John and Acts 1, the baptism of fire, and its judgement, are also absent. It is John the Baptist himself who provides an interpretation for it, "He will gather his wheat into the barn, (that is the baptism of the Holy Spirit), and burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire" (that is the baptism of fire). And to avoid any speculation on the subject, he talks about the fire three times in Matthewís text (Matt.3:7-12), and he describes this fire as "unquenchable", and not as some sort of enthusiasm or endowment of power.
This double aspect should not surprise anyone, since the Gospel, in spite of the fact that it is the Good News "par excellence", also contains the idea of judgement. In II Cor. 2:15,16 we read, "To the one (those who are perishing) we are the odor of death; to the other (those who are being saved) the fragrance of life". Similarly, the speaking in foreign tongues of Acts 1 also confronted two categories of people. For those Jews who were favourable to it, tongues were the revelation of a great mystery: people speaking foreign languages, that is languages other than Hebrew, were to enter the Church and form one body with the Jews by the baptism of the Spirit; but for the others, it announced judgement, as Isaiah had prophesied, involving collapse and destruction, chains and imprisonment (Isaiah 28:11-13). So what was the attitude of these Jews, to justify the presence of such a threat contained within such a blessing? It is described to us by a Jew of the opposite side, "the Jews... who drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to all men, in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The WRATH of God has come upon them at last" (I Thess.2:14-16). And this terrible baptism of fire, which tongues of fire had announced, came upon them on a national scale at the historical storming of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., and in the form of the longest and the most tragic Diaspora in their whole history.
We just ask a simple question, "Where is the sign of this judgement in the present-day speaking in tongues and where are the people it is addressing?"
(*1) We make this point in passing, so as to ward off in advance any future attempts to distort what we have said about the relationship between tongues and the baptism in the Spirit. That was clarified in chapter 9 and is poles apart from the charismatic opinion on the subject.
(*2) Heb.1:7 is no exception (see Acts 12:23, I Thess.1:7, Heb 2:2 and the angels in Revelation).
THE SIX-PILLAR BRIDGE
The gift of tongues is like the Gospel: one does not just make something up, and claim it to be Gospel truth, for it to become actually true. The Gospel, like speaking in tongues, depends on strict rules and verifiable criteria. The Holy Spirit gives a summary, as remarkable as it is precise, of the true Gospel, the only one that saves, in I Cor.15:1-4, "Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures". The Gospel is the bridge of salvation spanning the river of perdition. It is built upon a minimum of six pillars, conforming to the plan of the divine Architect. The true Gospel must rest upon:
1. The death of Christ as substitute for our sins (v.3).
2. The resurrection of Christ for our justification (v.4).
3. The declaration of the above two elements (v.1).
4. Reception of the good news (v.1).
5. Perseverance in the life and doctrine of the Gospel (vv.1,2).
6. Salvation and the assurance of salvation (v.2)
Only this bridge with its six pillars opens the way to assurance of salvation. That is why the Spirit takes care to specify, "... if you hold firm to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain". In other words, the bank of salvation on the other side of the river cannot be reached unless the six elements are in place. Were only one pillar to be missing, even with faith (v.2), all hope of salvation would be vain. Even though such a gospel contained some elements of truth, in the end it would be a false gospel:
-- If one believes that Christ died but explains away His resurrection, faith becomes vain because a pillar is missing and the bridge is no longer passable.
-- If one holds on to these first two essential points, but fails to preach them (or preaches them only to oneself in private, with a view to personal edification), no one can be saved, for God says in Rom.10:14, "...how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard, and how can they hear without someone preaching to them?"
-- If these three conditions coincide, but if those who hear the offer of salvation do not receive it personally by faith, they cannot become children of God (Jn.1:12). A pillar is missing and the bridge is unusable.
-- If these four conditions are there, but if the eternal Gospel is not inscribed permanently in everyday life by perseverance, the Bible says that we have believed in vain.
-- If the Gospel does not remain true to what is presented in the Bible, and if it drifts away from those terms, the greatest faith in the world would be vain and salvationís shore never reached. A gospel with only five-sixths of its content would have no more value than if it contained only two- or three-sixths. It would be as useless as the famous bridge of Avignon which stops in the middle of the Rhone; it served its full purpose in days gone by, but it is of no more use today other than to be put into a song.
It is the same with the gift of tongues. It is like a bridge with at least six pillars that could be called the great bridge of Pentecost, a bridge that enabled Jews and non-Jews to meet across the river of separation that had kept them apart. To have the authentic bridge of tongues, it would be necessary for all six pillars to be in place, and not one of them missing. Everyone knows that a banknote five-sixths genuine would never be anything other than a counterfeit note. The true speaking in tongues, that of the Bible, had to include at least the following six points:
1. Be a real, existing language (I Cor.14:10 (J.N.D); Acts 2:8).
2. Be addressed only to God and never to men (I Cor.14:21).
3. Not be a sign for believers (I Cor. 14:22).
4. Be a sign for "this people" (unbelieving Jews) concerning the vocation of the Gentiles (I Cor. 14:21).
5. Announce the fire of a judgement upon "this people" (Isa. 28:11-13; I Cor. 14:21; Acts 2:3).
6. Be consistent with its explanatory corollary, the gift of interpretation.
If today we were presented with a gift of tongues that contained within itself the biblical guarantee of these six elements, we should also say, "Do not forbid to speak in tongues". But in the twentieth century, this minimum of six conditions will never be found in any movement or church on the face of the earth. What is being suggested to us today has nothing in common, either closely or remotely, with the scriptural pattern. It is nothing less than a counterfeit, and we need to realise that those counterfeiters will be brought to justice and its inevitable sentence. You will never see a forger apply to the Royal Mint to have his forgeries examined. For the same reason today those who speak in tongues continue their angry anathemas against those they accuse of blaspheming against the Holy Spirit, simply because the latter provide them with biblical and other means of submitting their "gift" to the most impartial of verifications.
Before tackling the subject of experiences, we earnestly beg the reader to refer to pages 7 to 9 (Section - Prevented from Seeing) of chapter 2 and to read them again carefully. What maintains most people in their belief in the permanence and the present-day reality of the gift of tongues is less the result of biblical knowledge than the argument, decisive according to them, of experience.Let us recall the answer of my neighbour, a Pentecostal pastor, who was confronted with the Bible, "I canít deny an experience". Or the answer of a Catholic woman to whom I was presenting the Bible, "I have just come back from Lourdes and what I saw there is enough for me". In the same way, friends with charismatic sympathies, in defiance to my quoting the Bible to them, have greeted me with a blunt refusal in the name of "proofs" that satisfy them. It is what is known as subjectivism, or the theology of experience, the plague of our century, which is sweeping away as a great wave part of the people of God. No doubt we can see in it a reaction against arid and deadening rationalism or cold orthodoxy. In reaction against a cerebral Christianity we now see a mystical Christianity born of experience, of emotions, of visions, of exaltation, of the feel-good factor, etc. D. Cormier, whom I have already quoted, has written, "We live in a world where there is no longer any belief in absolute truth but in relative truths, subordinated to human experience. The emphasis is placed on experience rather than doctrine". We take the opportunity to ask the question, What is the value of a so-called theology of experience that clashes head-on with the Word of God? To whom must we direct our obedience? To that which disguises itself as an angel of light or to God?
Nothing calls for more caution than the quicksand of experience. What are we to think of a friend who, irritated at finding himself constantly brought back to the solid foundation of the Scriptures, exclaimed, "Anyway! I heard a prophecy in tongues and it came true in my life!" For him, heaven had spoken. Can we be sure of it? What we are sure of, is that heaven has spoken in the Bible, where such an experience is refuted. Between an experience that says that through a tongue, heaven speaks to men, and the Holy Spirit who says just the opposite, we have to make a choice. Whose side are we on? Job resolved this dilemma when he said, "I follow His will, not my own desires" (Job 23:12, GNB) (*1)
What Does Experience Prove? Experience is encountered everywhere in life, but it does not prove very much. In fact, even a horoscope is not always wrong, as thousands of people are ready to testify. Madame Soleil, the great French clairvoyant, manages at times to make extraordinarily true pronouncements. Jeanne Dixon, the American clairvoyant, predicted the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and yet another, the attempt against President Ronald Reagan. The walls of the chapel of Notre Dame de la Garde in Marseille are covered with plaques of gratitude to Mary bearing witness to answered prayers. The crutches and artificial limbs suspended in the cave at Lourdes support the Marian doctrine of the mediation of Mary. That also is experience. The diviner who indicates the place of a lost object hundreds of miles away, simply by passing his pendulum over a road-map, or who gives an exact diagnosis of an illness without sounding the chest of the patient, that is also experience. Thousands of people nowadays chase after bracelets and other magnetic jewellery; some of them insisting that a "plus" has come into their relationships, their life, their health, their love affairs, their business, etc. Multitudes have more and more recourse to these practices, because the reality of their experiences prevents them from understanding the language of the Bible and from seeing the occult and divinatory nature of these things.
The Bible also relates numerous "anti-experiences" and puts us on our guard against them. For if it is the Holy Spirit who speaks in situations where only the slightest element of truth is involved, in what category are we to place the experience of Acts 16 where a slave girl, endowed with an extraordinary "gift" of prophecy, begins to follow two men whom she has never met before and, for three days, calls out to anyone willing to hear her that they are servants of God and that they announce the way of salvation. That also was "experience" clothed in evangelical vocabulary. It was, however, a demon who was speaking through her and Paul cast it out. As long as the slave girl was able to announce these truths, she was under a delusion. It was only when she was delivered from these "experiences" and was incapable of reproducing them that she came into the truth
Pharaoh had as much as he wanted. His magicians changed water into blood, produced swarms of frogs and changed rods into snakes. It was true, authentic, but what was hidden behind it? Equally authentic was the experience of those women in Jeremiah 44:16-18, "We will burn incense to the Queen of Heaven... just as we and our fathers, our kings and our officials did... At that time we had plenty of food and we were well-off and suffered no harm, but ever since we stopped burning incense to the Queen of Heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have had nothing and have been perishing by sword and famine". What a shattering blow for the Word of God! Experience was proving these women right against the Word of God! What is it that determines whether a thing is truly from God? A personal testimony of someoneís experience or the sovereign authority of the Scriptures?
It is time to de-mystify experiences that are nothing short of travesties of Scriptures. Such as, for example, a young man whose parents say that, when he came down from his room after spending time speaking in tongues before God, he was rather like Moses coming down from the mountain, transfigured by the presence of God. An alluring testimony that does not, however, tally with Scripture, but distorts it on several counts:
1. He had edified only himself, contrary to the purpose of every gift.
2. His sign-experience had not been a sign for the benefit of "this people".
3. The private practice of tongues is unknown in the New Testament.
4. It was perceived, by believing parents, as a sign of the spirituality of their son, whilst God says it was a sign for the unbelievers.
5. He had expressed himself in non-existent languages.
6. He had taken no account of the divine teaching about the cessation of the gift.
All this already adds up to a great many kicks against the Bible. You may well ask, what if he attained Mosesí radiance? First of all, nowhere in the Bible do we find that tongues provided a shining face or that we are to seek such a result. Secondly, it is well known that eastern religions with a mystic emphasis can produce just as many of these experiences, if not more. Is it not written in Ezechiel 8:14 that some women at the gate of the temple in Jerusalem, were immersed in such devotion as to reduce them to tears? No doubt they felt its beneficial effects and an inner sense of relief, but it was an abominable idol called Thammuz that made them give way to this ecstasy.
Does not Father Chiniquy bear witness that in his life as a priest, he experienced the most sublime moments kneeling in worship before the host. He was transported by it and as if transfigured. After his conversion to Jesus Christ, this sublimation arising from the abominable doctrine of transubstantiation, he now saw as idolatry. Yet, what elevation, what exaltation before his "Bon Dieu" (Good God) breadcrumbs, and what a testimony to "experience"!
As young converts at a Bible camp in Alsace, a friend and I broke the rules of the camp one afternoon and went off together with the sincere desire of evangelising the neighbouring village. We enjoyed a glorious and harmless jaunt, in the name of Jesus Christ. We thought we had achieved exploits. On the way back we were radiant, with a spring in our step, as if carried by angels. From the heights of our euphoria, we looked down upon the camp director, who was nevertheless a man of God and experience, persuading ourselves that he knew nothing about anything. Our beatitude was our justification. We were so sure of ourselves! Werenít the feelings real and lived? The exaltation did not, however, last and it didnít take us long to attach to it another label, one other than ecstasy, revelation or spirituality. It was simply a very ephemeral, emotional, mystical overheat, which soon gave way to emptiness and a feeling of failure and frustration.An elevated state of soul augurs nothing good when it is the serpent of brass, albeit biblical, that inspires it. Since when has emotive, even religious, intensity been synonymous with truth and spirituality? It will always be true that God prefers obedience to sacrifice (I Sam.15:22). Today especially, when so many psychic and mystic experiences are substituted for simple obedience to the Word of God, we must exclaim with the prophet, "To the law and the testimony!" (Isa.8:20).
The Bible puts us on our guard against the temptation to live by sight, relying on a string of miracles and signs and visions and experiences. Those who enter upon this dangerous pathway will be an easy prey for the Antichrist who comes precisely with "all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders" (II Thess.2:9). His satanic spirit is at work today, and his way is well prepared in the heart of those who place themselves on his chosen ground, whilst at the same time proclaiming their loyalty to Christ.
Diagnostic and Remedy
In the meantime, how much spiritual agitation we see! Several have told me of their troubled confusion and disappointment. The exercise of this "gift" was nothing but a facade masking the reality of an almost total spiritual and moral bankruptcy. Their glossolalia was a sort of compensation for a life of failure. They remained superficial whilst having the appearance of demonstrating the opposite, but they needed it to be a sign for themselves and thus reassert their value in their own eyes and in the eyes of others. Those who indulged most frequently in this practice were suffering from a distressing instability that they bore in secret, without daring to admit it and without realising its cause. They continually had to overact so as not to lose face with the others and to give themselves a feeling of security. Constantly focussing on their experiences, they were caught up in a vicious circle. The quicksands of these mystical experiences led them to a life of highs and lows, with unpredictable changes of mood: one moment joyful, the next depressed. The plotted diagram of their life was like the teeth of a saw; assured of their salvation one day and doubting it on the morrow; praising their pastor to the skies one month and denigrating him the following month; changing fellowships as one changes oneís shirt.
The path that leads to deliverance is as follows: first of all, make sure that one is indeed born again, that the former things have passed away and that all things have become new by faith in the Lord Jesus, the only Saviour and the only Mediator between God and men. Next, follow the example of good King Hezekiah, who broke into pieces the serpent of brass that Moses had made, that is to say, by admitting the erroneous biblical labelling and its consequences through a full confession, claiming the merits of the blood of Christ (I Jn.1:7,9). God, who pardoned the biblical derailment of Israel, will also pardon the one who repents in this way. Faith must then take hold of the full pardon and of full deliverance from these psychic forces and their destabilising influence. At the feet of Jesus, the unstable Legion, the man of inarticulate cries, the roller-coaster victim (Mark 5:5) who always ended up at the bottom, finds peace, rest, his right mind, and at long last, the power to present to those who see and hear him a coherent witness.
May the Holy Spirit who leads into all the truth and who delivers from all alienation, liberate also those who are still held captive by the very tempting but very dangerous theology of experience.
Ray H. Hughes, superintendent of the Assemblies of God in Cleveland, has written, "Every experience that does not fit into the framework of Scripture must be stigmatised as false, however impressive it may be". If such a man can say such good things, and at the same time accept in his life and in his movement "impressive experiences", which he lacks the discernment to see do not fit into the framework of Scripture, it is manifestly because:
-- either, he has only a truncated knowledge of the Scriptures he invokes,
-- or, he is struck with partial blindness,
-- or, as one ex-Pentecostalist confessed, "We were biblical only when it suited us to be so. When a disturbing truth was pointed out to us, the invariable attitude was to act as if it did not exist".
(*1) The French version renders it, "I bent my will to the words of his mouth".
THE ORIGIN OF PRESENT-DAY TONGUES
Such as they are presented to us in the New Testament, and harmonised with the correctives that Paul addressed to the Corinthians, tongues were a gift of the Spirit and had a miraculous and infallible character. In general terms, the modern resurgence of speaking in tongues dates from the beginning of the century. We have discussed this long enough to make it clear that it does not have the same heavenly origin as the tongues of apostolic times. Modern-day tongues are simply a poor counterfeit, far removed from the original, and whoever speaks of counterfeit speaks of fraud, that is to say, of a spiritual relationship to the one who is the father of lies from the beginning. In the midst of this darkness, it must be admitted that there are degrees of guilt and responsibility. Every lie comes from the devil, certainly, but all those who have lied are not necessarily diabolical.
1. It is good to remember that a number of Pentecostal Christians, and even a few of their pastors and elders, have never spoken in tongues and that they are all the better for it. They are the same as Christians of other evangelical denominations. They do not fall into the counterfeit class. There is no question of satanic control or demonic origin in this case.
2. In many other cases, the interested party, caught up in the particular ambiance and teaching of the group he finds himself in, has mumbled a few disjointed words to which the label of "baptism of the Spirit" has immediately been attached, but without ever in his life experiencing a repeat performance. The counterfeit in his case is so tenuous and isolated that he cannot be accused of fraudulent intent. If the Spirit of God is not in it, neither is the spirit of evil.
3. There is the case of those who were led into error, who were mistaken and who have recognised it. Underlying their short-lived experience there was no more a spirit of evil intent than there was of Holy Spirit. We welcomed into our home for a short time a problematic young man who used to attend a young peopleís group of Pentecostal allegiance. Without anyone raising the question of new birth, he was pressed to be baptised in the Spirit to gain access to the gifts and this he managed to do without difficulty. This "victory" was inevitably followed by a cascading series of failures and he sank deeper into sin. Since he had spoken in tongues without repentance and conversion, there was no more question of showing him the way to these two basic elements of salvation. To overcome his faults, it was recommended that he pray in tongues as often as possible. He redoubled his efforts to articulate disjointed syllables and the moral result was disastrous. The Holy Spirit had no place in it, and the devil not much either, unless it would be in his misguided advisers. He was like a loose pulley, or a spinning idler-wheel in a gear-box. It stopped by itself when, discouraged, he left the group that kept it spinning. The whole affair sank into oblivion and he into delinquency.
4. Before going to press, we learned first-hand that a few weeks ago a pious but unconverted man, a parish councillor in his reformed Church, dissatisfied with himself and judging his infant baptism to be inadequate, consulted a Pentecostal assembly with the intention of being baptised as an adult, by immersion. This was done without any enquiry about whether he was born again. They spoke to him about another baptism, their baptism of the Spirit, which they also directed him to seek. As the sign of it had to be glossolalia, he entered into this experience with no subsequent "plus" of any kind. The mediocrity of his Christian life carried on as usual until a Christian relative lent him some cassettes of messages that I had recorded previously on the revivals of the Old Testament. He listened to them whilst driving his car until convicted by the Word, he could stand it no longer. He stopped at the side of the motorway, broke down in tears and was converted to Jesus Christ! That is where he was born again and his life was radically transformed. This goes to show that, in this case as in the others, the Spirit had no place in this business of contemporary tongues and that the other spirit was not much involved either, if indeed it was involved at all. However, this also demonstrates that the present-day glossolalia is produced without the Holy Spirit and that eventually that manís pseudo-tongue, interpreted by the same spirit, would have given a so-called "authentic" message, one hundred percent evangelical, (see chapter 6 where the fraudulent nature of the gift of interpretation is made clear).
5. Here is the testimony of a fervent young Catholic who discovered the truth on hearing the preaching of the simple Gospel of grace. He discarded Romanism and adhered mentally and wholeheartedly to this truth, giving himself over to it entirely. Like Saul of Tarsus, who was blameless according to the law, he became irreproachable according to the doctrine of his new church, to the extent that they made him their young elder, far and away the most active. His gifts of organisation made him the spearpoint of the evangelisation programme. He married a girl from the church. Outwardly, everything was going well for them, both in the assembly and in their marriage, but it was spiritually, with their Lord, in their consecration that, in spite of all their efforts, things were not running too smoothly. Meanwhile, some new members of the church, who had become disillusioned and left Pentecostalism without denying any of it, told him that if only he were baptised in the Spirit, everything would be all right, for he would then be clothed with power. Without taking the trouble to check what the Bible said about it, he sought after this second experience whose sign was speaking in tongues, and he spoke in tongues but the promised power was not in the encounter. Some time later, this irreproachable young man, now "baptised in the Spirit" and demonstrating it by the "obvious" sign of speaking in tongues, found out why his Christian life was not working. Through contact with Christians who deny and oppose this second experience, he was converted to Jesus Christ! What the so-called "baptism of the Spirit" had not given him, he found in conversion to Christ (rather than in intellectual adherence to a sound doctrine). He found all that he was lacking, to the great displeasure of those who failed to understand how he had been able to speak in tongues by the Holy Spirit without having first received Him. For their part, they might have asked themselves whether they were not in the same situation! Was there a spirit other than the Spirit of God involved in the sterility of this extra-biblical experience? We would not dare to affirm that a few incoherent sentences, essentially false, no doubt, but short-lived, turned this good man into a thoroughgoing forger of divine things, especially since he very soon recognised and confessed his error. No, having reached, in this chapter, this point of our analysis, let us not give to the devil a place that is not his. To do so would be to grant him too much honour.
6. On the other hand, it is disturbing when the occasional becomes an obsession to the point of cultivating the art of speaking such gibberish and attributing it to the action of the Spirit. The idler-wheel of falsehood no longer spins freely on its axle; it has moved into gear and begun to control the movement of the whole mechanism, so that from then on, nothing can stop it. In the same way, the one who allows the counterfeit to settle into his spiritual life, ends up by being welded to it, so to speak. This is forcefully stated by the Spirit of truth, "because they did not welcome and love the truth... God sends the power (energeia) of error to work in them so that they believe what is false" (II Thess.2:10,11 GNB). Now that they believe it, the lie has become their truth. Those who have reached that stage can no longer find a way out, for the enemy has taken up residence and they treat him as if he were the Lord. The evil that was at first benign has become malignant. These words may seem harsh, but is that not precisely the judgement that, in the 1970s, conservative Pentecostalism was still bringing against the gift of tongues as practised by the charismatics? Let us recall the way they described it, "This movement is the conjunction of protestant Pentecostalism and Catholic idolatry... IT IS A COUNTERFEIT OF THE DEVIL preparing for the coming of the Antichrist", and what was it that was a devilís counterfeit in their eyes? The baptism of the Spirit and its evident sign of speaking in tongues practised among those with whom the neo-Pentecostals have now become the closest friends. So then, this false second experience, wasnít it from Pentecostals that the charismatics received it? Whatever the different forms may be that it takes in one group or another, it is the same experience that clashes with the Scriptures. Is not the occult origin of this experience revealed when Pentecostal pastors recognise that spiritualists seek out certain Pentecostal meetings whereas they avoid those of other evangelicals. It is because they find there an atmosphere that suits them. I have personally heard the president of French spiritualism say, "In our meetings we speak in tongues also, like the Pentecostals, but with this advantage over them that, with us, they are intelligible tongues". Thatís enough to make your hair stand on end!
During the Dalai Lamaís recent visit to France, the press reported a particular event from his early childhood. Although living in a province far away from Llasa, he spoke the dialect of the capital without having ever learned it. This speaking in tongues was verifiable and no one can throw doubt on its authenticity, but by what spirit does the Dalai Lama speak in tongues? The mainstream Pentecostals have said that it is the same as the one that gives utterance to the charismatics, but their own is identical. Since it is not the same as that of the apostles; the conclusion is easy to draw.
7. I have always been sceptical when reading or hearing reports of speaking in tongues that turned out to be from the devil. Dr. Gabelin affirms that a missionary heard some speaking in tongues in which phrases spoken in a Chinese dialect that he knew were too vile and obscene to be repeated. On another occasion, the person speaking in tongues allegedly blasphemed the name of the Lord Jesus in the most horrible way, etc... It was with some reservation that I attached any credence to these testimonies. I make it a principle of not trusting rumour, whichever direction it comes from, and of never forming an opinion simply on the grounds of hearsay. When it is a Christian of the stature of my friend Ralph Shallis who shares his personal experience in this field, one is obliged to pay attention. In his book in French, The Gift of Speaking Various Tongues, he says this, "I shall remember all my life a private prayer meeting I attended. Those who were present gave way without any reserve to excesses that profoundly shocked my spirit. Suddenly one of them, moreover the one who appeared to me the most spiritual man of all, (or perhaps the least carnal?) began to sing strangely in an unknown tongue. He pronounced one sentence only, of which I very well remember the first two words, ĎMAHA DEVIí. This man then interpreted this sentence in French in the following manner, ĎI am the Almighty God, put your trust in meí. Always with the same curious melody, he repeated SIX TIMES this sentence in identical form and SIX TIMES he translated it with exactly the same words, that is what fixed it in my memory. For the others present at this gathering, Ďit was God speaking to themí; they acclaimed this Ďtongueí with ĎAmensí and ĎHallelujahsí... but for me, it was something quite different.Iin a word, I recognised the voice of the spirit with which I was being confronted: it was that of the enemy. The real meaning of those two words, repeated six times, proves the truth of what I am saying, for ĎMAHA DEVIí means Ďthe great goddessí. It is the title, among others, of the wife of Shiva, the third person of the Hindu triad, the god of destruction. The divinity MAHA DEVI is worshipped throughout India in different guises, including those of the goddesses KALI and DURGA. Durga is a terrifying, destructive deity. Kali means Ďblackí; she is represented with a necklace of deathís-heads and cadaveric hands; she holds in her hand a decapitated head; she is covered with blood and puts out her tongue as a sign of mockery against her husband Shiva whom she at times tramples underfoot. She is worshipped with impure rites, among which cultic prostitution alone has dragged down innumerable children into a life of degradation and suffering. And so it was that this man, calling himself a Christian, without understanding the meaning of his Ďspeaking in tonguesí, identified this pagan divinity with the Almighty God and commanded us to put our faith in it... and those who gathered round him willingly believed that it was the Holy Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ who inspired him! All this took place in a meeting that claimed to be Christian and biblical!"
Dr. Rebecca Brown claims to have brought to Christ one of the greatest witches in the United States. In her book, He Came to Free the Captives, she gives the testimony of the ex-witch who, on the orders of Satan, used to infiltrate the Christian communities in order to destroy them. She says notably, "It is common in charismatic churches that many people speak and pray in tongues together, in worship and prayer meetings, without the speaking in tongues being interpreted. The Satanists derive great advantage from this practice. When I was in the service of Satan I regularly spoke in tongues in all the worship and prayer meetings, and the other Satanists with whom I worked did the same. No one interpreted. We used to curse the church, the pastor, the Christians and God! And no one suspected it..." (*1)What Dr. Brown still seems not to realise is that the "interpretations", as we have already mentioned in chapter 6, are as false as the "tongues", since they are the counterfeiting of a counterfeit. The result is a double camouflage that aggravates the confusion. This is clearly shown by the experience of Ralph Shallis, as reported above, and likewise by the following example. In chapter 6, I tell of the occasion when, during an incomprehensible, as usual, speaking in tongues, I suddenly heard the expression, three times repeated, Spiriti Santi, without its equivalent being taken up in the interpretation that followed. Behind this first proof of counterfeit, there is something still more serious. Having some knowledge of la bella lingua, I knew that in Italian the Holy Spirit is lo Spirito Santo and that the plural of words ending in -o end in -i. This means that, in addition to the deceit of the interpretation, this man was paganising the Holy Spirit by making Him plural! WHO, at that time, was manipulating that "brother" to make him utter the worst possible blasphemy against the divine and unique Person of the Holy Spirit? The whole assembly associated itself with this insult against the Deity in an enthusiastic Amen! That took place in a so-called Christian worship service of moderate, conservative Pentecostalism.
Is it from the devil? That at least is what they themselves were affirming a few years ago with regard to their charismatic brothers to whom they transmitted this "gift", the one they now exercise after receiving their "baptism of the Spirit". We would not dare contradict them! We can only express our thorough agreement with them and confirm the analysis that reaches the terrible conclusion that the whole thing smacks of blatant heresy. AND NOT ONLY AMONGST THOSE ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STREET!
"Test the spirits" (I Jn. 4:1)
In his book about putting the gift of tongues to the test, Dr. G. MacGraw writes, "... after a few moments of prayer, we ask the person being counselled to speak in tongues. Next the leader of the group will adress his questions, not to this person, but to the spirit who inspires the speaking in tonguesÖ The majority had already exercised the gift of tongues in the course of their private devotions. Many doubted the authenticity of the gift but many were certain that the examination to which they submitted themselves would confirm its divine origin. The shocking fact is that more than ninety percent of them had to admit to the demonic origin of their gift of tongues. There are many Pentecostals and charismatics who recognise that demonic tongues exist. Yet they are certain that the gift they have received is authentic. A girl who felt evil influences in her life asked for her gift to be examined... she felt certain that her gift was of divine origin, since a lady in her church had affirmed that in her case, the speaking in tongues came from the Holy Spirit. When we met together with the purpose of praying for the deliverance of this sister, the spirit told us that he hated the Lord Jesus Christ. When we questioned it, the demon admitted to being the spirit that was responsible for this particular gift of tongues... Well-grounded Christians can be possessed by a tongues-speaking demon... It has happened that missionaries on furlough have heard speaking in tongues in a blasphemous way in the language of their mission field... Someone asked for an interview... It was impossible for me to imagine that this distinguished Christian lady could harbour a demon with respect to speaking in tongues... soon a speaking in tongues manifested itself, expressing bitterness and hatred towards Christ, towards herself and towards us. It was undeniable that she was inhabited by a demonic gift of tongues. Others... are profoundly sincere and spiritual. Their life gives evidence of real conversion, of a hunger for spiritual growth... but putting the spirit to the test leads to the conclusion that multitudes of enthusiasts who believe they have a true gift of tongues are deluding themselves".
I leave Dr. MacGraw with the responsibility of his conclusions but I do not contradict him. This is an area of investigation to which I do not yet have access. Others in France have come up with the same results. I can neither deny nor confirm that the gift of tongues is, as Dr. MacGraw asserts, ninety percent of demonic origin. What I confirm, nevertheless, Bible in hand, is that the gift is one hundred percent false. It should not, however, be concluded that by leaving a ten percent chance of uncertainty MacGraw means to imply that one out of ten speaking in tongues has a chance of being the true gift. The remaining ten percent fall into the "idler-wheel" category of unintelligible gibberish that, as we saw at the beginning of this chapter, has nothing to do with the Holy Spirit nor with Beelzebub.
Ralph Shallis, a friend of George Burch, quotes him in his book The Gift of Speaking Various Tongues. G. Burch tested the gift of tongues of 147 people. He found three doubtful cases, whereas the other 144 were all cases of demonic origin. Any unquestioning supporter of glossolalia may, if he wishes, get rid of this formidable evidence simply by denying it, just as some people deny the existence of the gas chambers of the Nazi regime, but to cover up a lying practice with other lies is to be doubly dishonest, is it not?
In a town near Strasbourg where I was conducting an evangelistic campaign, George Burchís experiment for testing spirits was reported to the local Pentecostal pastor. He acknowledged it but immediately added, "Itís true, but the pastor of the Pentecostal church in George Burchís town went to find him and asked if he might submit his own gift of tongues to the same test. George Burch replied that he knew him well and that, in his case, there was no point in putting his gift to the test for he regarded it as authentic". I had an inner conviction that this man was not telling the truth. I immediately contacted George Burch, through our mutual friend Ralph Shallis, to ask him if this incident was true. The reply, which I have kept, was entirely negative. George Burch had no knowledge of that event, and so, this shepherd who ought to have been an example to his flock, defended the precariousness of his doctrine with a moral swindle. He was twisting the evidence to suggest that if the 147 cases analysed were of satanic origin, the 148th was not! Through this base dialectic, every speaker in tongues in the world may pretend that HE also is the 148th!! To whom was this "pastor" lying when he deliberately told an untruth about an imaginary interview? We find the answer in Acts 5:1-11 where Ananias and Sapphira, believing that they lied only to Peter, fell down stone-dead because they had in fact "lied to the Holy Spirit". If therefore the conscious word of this man was capable of such a moral fraud, to which treachery might he not give way in his uncontrolled speaking in tongues?
Just think what came out of the mouth of those three shameless individuals who, on the main French television channel, offered to millions of viewers the wild spectacle of the three of them holding a conversation in unknown languages, stretching the imposture even to the point of pretending to understand one another; all in the name of the Holy Spirit. Never has what is sacred been held up to ridicule so publicly and in so shameless a fashion as on that evening. We seem to hear the words of Jude who, after having exhorted the beloved in Christ to "contend for the faith (doctrine) that was once and for all entrusted to the saints" (v.3), continues with indignation, "Some godless people have slipped in unnoticed among us, persons who distort the message about the grace of our God in order to excuse their immoral ways... Long ago the Scriptures predicted the condemnation... these people have visions which make them sin... those things that they know by instinct... are the very things that destroy them... Woe to them! These are the people who cause divisions, who are controlled by their natural desires, who do not have the Spirit". (Jude vv.4,8,10,11,19). This terrible verdict comes, not from us, but from the Spirit of truth for whom religious falsehood is more offensive than any other.
(*1) Certain works being of unequal value throughout, the quotations that are taken from them do not automatically recommend their authors or the whole of their writings.
I. CAUSE AND EFFECT -- MORALLY ADRIFT
Error is never self-contained. It is never without consequences. It is part of a carefully prepared plan. Its instigator relentlessly pursues his aim whether short-, mid- or long-term. In this chapter we want to examine the CAUSE of moral drift, and as we do so, we are well aware that it constitutes the most unpleasant part of the book, where we can no longer be content with generalities. We must name names; we must identify ecclesiastical affiliations; we must debate moral situations of the utmost gravity.
At the beginning of the century, Parham, one of the best-known founders, if not the founder, of early Pentecostalism, was imprisoned for flagrant immorality. Continuously since that time, the most serious problem in the Pentecostal movement has been the fact that many of its leaders have fallen into immorality. No other evangelical movement in the opposing camp, as far as the doctrine (the CAUSE) under discussion, has had such a lamentable testimony or public reputation.
Quite recently, the son of a friend of mine, a Pentecostal minister, asked me with evident uneasiness, how it was that all the men to the fore in the nearby Assemblies of God were involved (his father excepted) in some blatant moral sin. His own teen-age sister having been assaulted by one of them, his father was forced to continue his ministry outside that movement.
Philippe Emirian, appointed defender of the movement in France, is obliged to admit the scandals that bespatter Pentecostalism. In his book Le Don du Saint-Esprit, he says that Donald Gee himself regrets deeply that Pentecostals who have spoken in tongues show little holiness in their lives (pp.229). Quoting Th. BrŤs and Lindsell he continues, "We have received a spiritual baptism that is supposed to bring us the fullness of the Spirit, love for the Lord and hatred for sin, and we find ourselves in the same position (and even lower) as those who have not received this baptism - obliged to struggle day by day to maintain our fellowship with God and to resist temptation. Close to us we see so many brothers and sisters who, in spite of their baptism in the Holy Spirit, fall into flagrant sin, which Christians who have not enjoyed this privilege seem to resist more victoriously"(pp. 229).
Observers have noticed a correlation between the emotional experience called "baptism in the Holy Spirit" and an increase of moral disorders in circles of Pentecostal or Neo-pentecostal tendency, particularly an impressive number of irregular sexual relationships. There have been gatherings where people seeking emotional experiences, prayed to the Holy Spirit to descend upon them. They began by "singing in the Spirit", then "praying the Spirit", then they danced "in the Spirit" and before the night was over dozens of men and women were drawn into flagrant immorality "in the Spirit" (p. 230). Baumann quotes a young man who said, "I was surprised to discover that these blessed emotions in my soul were accompanied by sexual passions in my body". Dr. K. Koch (Germany) writes, "In the course of my consultations I came in contact with a very unhappy young girl who came to me for counselling. She was a student in a Bible college. One lady teacher was a member of the new "tongues movement". She speaks in tongues and has influenced several students in a similar experience. To crown it all this woman has lesbian tendencies and sexually abuses some of the students. The young girl had been seduced by her. In this country such things still happen".Emirian, quoting D. Shakarian, a well-known Pentecostal leader, writes, "It was the first time, but far from being the last, that Rose and I came up against the strangely baffling case of a man with an extraordinarily powerful spiritual ministry to others, and whose personal life is a real catastrophe. Sometimes, as in this manís case, the weak point is money. In other cases it is alcohol. It can also be women or drugs or sexual perversions" (pp. 231). What a terrible confession!
To be sure, non-Pentecostal evangelical circles are not perfect, nor do they pretend to be so. Occasionally we find unfortunate spiritual defects. There are weaknesses, struggles for pre-eminence, personality conflicts, internal tension, rivalry, hardness of heart... it would be vain to deny the existence of such things, even in certain leaders, but they do not predominate. Alas, it is also true that the reputation of Godís servants has sometimes been tarnished by others rather than by themselves. Moody was the victim of odious insinuations, to the extent that his ministry was affected for some time until he triumphed, as did Wesley, over the bitter gall of irresponsible detractors.
But never has public opinion been alerted in such disastrous proportions as those concerning most of the important figures of Pentecostalism.
Adepts of the movement suffer from this lamentable state of affairs, but should they not rather investigate the causes? They would discover that the first cause is identified with what makes the difference between them and other evangelicals. This difference is precisely their particular doctrine of "baptism in the Spirit".
When he wrote his book in 1983, Emirian thought he could take for granted the honourability of certain great names of the electronic church, such as T.L.Osborne, O.Roberts, whom he quotes, and other tele-evangelists, such as J.Swaggart, R.Humbard, J.Bakker... Since then these men have been involved in financial and moral scandals, which television has fed out to the whole world. Osborne promotes a doctrine of Oral Roberts, called the "gospel of prosperity", which proposes healing, love, success, and material prosperity as a divine recompense for generous giving to their own enterprises, several of which have become financial empires, all in the name of the Lord. The harm done to the evangelical cause is incalculable, and who is responsible for these scandals? On which side were those who, between two television sermons flirted with naive young women? Who was it who, with the money of offerings consecrated to God, paid fortunes to their secretaries and to prostitutes to buy their silence? Who accumulated embezzlements that caused them to be condemned to over forty yearsí imprisonment? Who are those who, in order to gather in millions of dollars, preached a so-called gospel of prosperity? Only the "baptised in the Spirit", with unheard-of spiritual pretensions. In September 1989, a leading Swiss newspaper devoted an entire page, supported by proofs, to stigmatise the corrupt character and the profit-making methods of the Pentecostal tele-evangelists. Two months later, the same press, under the headline, "Jim Bakker found guilty" completed his portrait in these words, "The tele-evangelist, Jim Bakker, founder of P.T.L (Praise the Lord), a religious organisation transformed into a financial empire, was found guilty, last Thursday by a federal court at Charlotte (North Carolina) of having fleeced his congregation to the tune of 3,7 million dollars. The tele-evangelist whose life-style of ostentatious luxury has become legendary, risks 120 years imprisonment and a fine of 5 million dollars". If these scandals made such waves in the European press, what sort of high tide must have swamped the U.S.A? I was in the United States in December 1990. It was with a sad heart that, incidentally, on the televised news I saw this man, weeping, going to prison for the rest of his life. What saddened me most was to hear the newsman ironically making fun of the occasion. Once more, as Rom.2:24 puts it so rightly, Godís name was blasphemed on an unprecedented scale. Billy Graham stands conspicuously apart from all these scandals; what makes it all the more significant is that he has not been involved in the Pentecostal experience of the "baptism in the Spirit", and that he, furthermore, challenges the accuracy of the term.
Hornetís Nest Emirian hopes to avoid this hornetís nest by quoting D. Shakarian, who also avoids the issue with these words, "Men on the front line get wounded". How then can we explain how giants of the faith, M. Luther, J. Calvin, John Knox, John Wesley, George Muller, C.H. Spurgeon, J.N. Darby, Hudson Taylor, David Livingstone, William Carey, Moody and Sankey, Charles Finney, H.A. Ironside, W.E. Vine, Campbell Morgan, Billy Graham, and many others, (*1) who more than anyone have been on the front line, oftentimes exposed to calumny, have yet remained irreproachable, morally, doctrinally, and financially? The explanation always brings us back to the first CAUSE of the difference between the two, which cause has been pointed out in the second paragraph of chapter 1: it is the "Pentecostal" experience, and the principle of cause and effect is universally accepted. If this is true for the charismatics, it is doubly true for Swaggart, Osborne, Bakker and Co. of sorry reputation. Thus, as much by their comments as by their conduct, they furnish the proof that it is their particular doctrine that brings about these results since other churches, who stand against it, are largely protected from the scandals that it produces.
Emirian, in a second attempt to get his movement out of this tight corner, and to minimize the bad reputation he is obliged to admit, gives a contrived explanation of the doctrine of baptism of the Holy Spirit. According to him this second experience does not produce a more intense fellowship with God, or victory over sin, and is not given for sanctification, but only for witness and service. Here we are not far from blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Those who speak in this manner forget that the characteristic appellation of the Spirit of God is precisely the HOLY Spirit, the Spirit of HOLINESS Who sanctifies all that has to do with His ministry. We protest vehemently against this method of interpreting texts that deprives the third person of the Trinity of a part of His own glory, that of being the bearer and the guarantor of ETERNAL HOLINESS, and to communicate it at all levels of His working. Strange baptism of a Spirit Who, as He admits believers into the Body of Christ, would leave His sanctification in the cloakroom instead of clothing them with it. Would He still be the HOLY Spirit if He gave His power, His gifts, His fullness, His in-dwelling independently of His holiness, holiness without which no one will see the Lord for Himself (Heb.12:14), nor reveal Him correctly to others. All that remains of the testimony is a counter-testimony by which Godís name is blasphemed among the unsaved. What credible witness can be given by the "powerful" man mentioned earlier if his life is a bad witness; or these tele-evangelists whose financial megalomania and corrupt moral conduct are made public by the media? Their actions speak so loudly that one can no longer hear the sound of their voices. True, they may be "powerful", as they like to say; they may prophesy, cast out demons, perform many miracles in the name of Jesus (Matt.7:21-23), but if they do not reject, not only the bad EFFECTS, but the CAUSE that produces them, they lay themselves open to hearing the dreadful judgement, "I never knew you, away from me you evildoers!". As there is always a relation between cause and effect we can foretell with certainty that the time of excesses, scandals and trickery is not over. The Toronto blessing is but one more step towards other moral deviations.
Some sincere and moderate Pentecostal brethren (thank God there are still some) will rightly say that in the movement there are both churches and individuals who, at least morally, have not fallen so low. Happily this is so! We would be the first to be distressed if it were otherwise. We are happy to be able to mention David Wilkerson without shame. The world outside Christ also has its great men of whom it can be justly proud but that does not recommend the spirit of the world. That is why, in spite of the respect we have for the author of The Cross and the Switchblade and for his work amongst drug addicts, I have read his Prophetic Revelations with definite reservations. They have been widely diffused and boasted of as being the most extraordinary prophecies of modern times. Without wishing to overshadow the positive ministry of David Wilkerson, who has also received the gifts of tongues and prophecy "through the baptism in the Holy Spirit", we strongly encourage everyone to find a copy of the original edition of "The Vision". Read carefully the paragraph in which he recommends not replacing oneís motorcar, given the imminent dates and time-limits "revealed" to him. Then read attentively Deut.18:20-22, and particularly verse 22, "A prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded him to say... must be put to death." You may say to yourself, how can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord? If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him". In accordance with the divine order we are not afraid to say that if there was prophecy, his gift was a delusion, and his gift of tongues coming from the same source, is of the same quality.
It may be said that well-known men of God have also made mistakes or been too confident in their commentaries about prophetic events. Perhaps rightly so, but their words or writings were only commentaries; they never claimed to possess the infallible gift of prophecy. It is important to point out the difference, which is immense.At the risk of repeating myself, what spirit prompted the gift of tongues of the three "prophets" who all prophesied in the name of Jesus Christ two cases of healing and a resurrection, but with no results, in spite of a triple miracle (tongues-prophecy-interpretation)? What other lying spirit moved the tongues of those who, in my vicinity, announced that God would be glorified by the healing of a young woman and who, on the day of her burial, had the insolence to declare publicly by the open grave that Godís promise was accomplished because this sister had now entered perfect healing, and that God was glorified on this day by the preaching of the Gospel? To what kind of gift do these spiritual leaders have access and by what spirit? Far from applying the penalty prescribed by the Mosaic law or simply refusing to tolerate them after the example of the church in Ephesus (Rev.2:2), the words of these false prophets continue to be heeded as the oracles of God.
In his book Whence Come These Tongues?, G.H. Lang continues on the same subject. "At Sutherland, a pastor, the Reverend J.M. Pollock was an enthusiastic supporter of the movement. He was the brother of Mrs. Boddy. He told me the following facts and confirmed them in writing. A neighbourís little boy was ill. Mrs. Boddy had been notified by Ďtonguesí that the child would be healed and in perfect health. She asked her brother to pass on this good news to the childís father. On the way, the Ďpowerí fell upon Mr. Pollock, who by tongues and interpretation had the news confirmed to him, but on arriving he was told that the child was already dead. He wished to make his sister agree that obviously it was a lying spirit who had acted. After recovering from the first shock, she said she had received the explanation. They had misunderstood the message whose real meaning was that the child would be better in the other world and not here on earth. As she accepted this obvious loophole, this woman, actively engaged in this British centre of the movement, was still more blinded and all the more ensnared by it. Mr. Pollock left the movement but for several years he was cruelly tormented by the evil powers that he had renounced."
Hear Godís True Prophets
The affair is more serious than some would like to believe for, in more than one case, the miracle of prophecy is backed up by two other miracles, those of speaking in tongues and interpretation. Its gravity is confirmed by several passages of Scriptures, "To those who prophesy out of their own imagination... woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing!... your prophets are like jackals among ruins... their visions are false and their divinations a lie. They say, ĎThus saith the Lordí, when the Lord has not sent them; yet they expect their words to be fulfilled... you say Ďthe Lord declaresí though I have not spoken. Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord declares because of your false words and lying visions, I am against you... my hand will be against the prophets who see false visions and utter lying divinations; they will not belong to the council of my people or be listed in the records" (Ezekiel 13).
"The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I have not sent them or appointed them or spoken to them. They are prophesying to you false visions... and the delusion of their own minds" (Jer. 14:14)."Yes, declares the Lord, I am against the prophets who wag their own tongue and yet declare, ĎThus saith the Lordí. Indeed I am against those who prophesy false dreams. They tell them and lead my people astray with their reckless lies, yet I did not send or appointed them; they do not benefit this people in the least" (Jer.23:31-32).
There is no remedy when God not only states "the prophets are prophesying lies", but is obliged to conclude, "and my people love it that way"! Man rarely refuses what he loves, especially when it comes to things touching the soul, the realm of the irrational and of the mysterious. Did not Solomon say in Prov. 9:17, "Stolen water is sweet, food eaten in secret is delicious".
Further Drifting Away
An exceptional spirit of fraud and deceit controls the most virulent of these prophets. The more they claim the authority of the Spirit of truth, the less the truth dwells in them. One couple, when I met them, had already severed the connection with their tongue-speaking friends. They had lost a little boy and, in the name of a God who can neither lie nor make a mistake, a prophecy was given in tongues that a son would soon replace the first. Contrary to true prophets who often had one chance in a billion of being right, (and who never made a mistake) this spirit had one chance in two. But a little girl was born to this couple. Did they expect a trans-sexual miracle? To honour this prophecy they gave the child an ambi-sexual name, dressed her as a boy and considered her as such until the day they had to undergo the humiliation of openly recognising that the responsible members of this church had misled them through the "gifts of the Spirit". From then on they had no difficulty in knowing whether or not the first letter of this "spirit" was written with a capital S. The addition problem looked like this: 1 tongue + 1 prophecy + 1 interpretation = 1 lie. The worst thing that could have happened for their spiritual growth had been avoided. Had a boy been born, they would have presumed on this experience to sink deeper into "truths" that would have led to their destruction. Having drifted so far away from the moorings of Scriptural discernment, the way of enlightenment, repentance and restoration would have been closed to them forever.Is it not a case of complete mystical unreality to see supposedly normal people who, wanting to prove that the signs of the day of Pentecost were not outdated, showed me photographs, glaringly touched-up, of a baptismal service somewhere on the other side of the world, where above the heads of those just baptised appeared what they dared call tongues of fire (which were merely strokes made with a felt-pen). These tongues of fire, so they said, were invisible to the human eye but were captured by the camera!!! Here we had a whole crowd, "baptised into the Spirit", accepting this trickery, seemingly unable to discern the blatant cheating, as blind as Balaam who did not see what his ass saw - that he had lost his way and that his euphoria was nothing but insanity (II Peter 2:16).
How can folks who say they are born again by the Spirit of truth take pleasure in what they know to be untrue? Because, unknown to them, they have come under the influence of a primary CAUSE. Like the charismatics who, by the laying-on of Pentecostal hands had received an evil spirit of mariolatry, many have received at the beginning of their "second experience" the same spirit of error to which a biblical label has been attached. They have abandoned themselves to these psychic "powers" and laid themselves open to a spirit of non-existent "tongues" supposedly coming from the Holy Spirit. The enemy, finding the door open, settled in, whence all the deceitful lies of which we are speaking. This duality is exposed by D. Cormier, as mentioned in chapter 1, "the characteristic of the Holy Spirit... is to guide into ALL the truth, that of the evil spirit is to guide us into A PART OF THE TRUTH". The same deviation that the Pentecostals expose in others is multiplied amongst themselves. The most sublime truths are found side by side with profound lies that they cannot resist because they are penetrated with them from the inside. The result is that they drift further and further away from the truth. I was responsible for the closing message of a large gathering where a young man who had been recommended to us was to give his testimony. He took the opportunity to tell of the greatest blessing of his life and declared, "believe it or not, but when I received the Holy Spirit He entered me by the soles of my feet". The sequel of his life proved that he had received nothing and that he was wiping his feet on the Spirit of holiness.
What spirit imparts to them a pronounced taste for fantasising, and creates in them a state verging on mythomania? When I was a student at a Bible college in England I was a member of an itinerant group of young evangelists. The scheduled meetings took us on a six-week trek mainly around Suffolk and Norfolk. One evening the pastor of a small Pentecostal church welcomed us warmly. He had just returned from a few days spent at a small convention in East Anglia. He looked so happy that he appeared to be overpowered by his emotion. He told us he had experienced extraordinary events. There had been three thousand conversions (*1). One of us asked timidly in a choky voice, "How many?" He repeated shamelessly, "Yes, 3.000!" Now we knew that at the convention he had come from, even if one counted the Christians, there were not half that many present. How could there be ten or twenty times more conversions than there were unconverted? Whence comes that spirit of blind illusion unknown to other evangelicals who tend to under-estimate their numbers rather than offend and lie to the Holy Spirit? People who thus lose contact with reality are obviously no longer in a sane state of mind. After having been led into an abnormal semi-conscious state, such as is prized by oriental religions, they have received a baptism resembling the sad fruits they bear. Perhaps someone will reproach me for telling these guardroom stories, (even if they are true) and will say that one canít judge a whole movement by the blunders of a few subordinates. Of course not! The manoeuvres are not commanded by corporals only; on the contrary, senior officers can go astray and mislead others in experiences and unscriptural explanations. Let us now hear from two Major-Generals.
I personally heard the late Thomas Roberts, undoubtedly one of the Pentecostal leaders of the French-speaking world, say loudly and clearly that considering his age and the fatigue due to his numerous preaching engagements, he had only to speak in tongues for a few minutes to be renewed in his body. Thus he welcomed the gift of tongues and recommended it as an anti-senile pick-me-up. This is one of the uses he made of this gift of the Spirit.
G. Ramseyer, a very popular Pentecostal preacher who beats all the records, incredible as they may be. In his book You Think Too Much, which begins with several pages reflecting common sense, one is dismayed to read the recommendation given concerning the gift of tongues. With this gift he combats insomnia, "I say to all those who have a problem of insomnia due to their thoughts and reasoning, Ďspeak in tongues and you will sleepí. If you havenít yet received this divine present, ask God for it. He will give it to you. If you speak in tongues in your bed, your reasoning will cease and you will soon be asleep.(Ö) Allow me to insist. Instead of turning over ten times in your bed, speak in tongues and pray to Jesus, you will need no more sleeping tablets. The remedy is infallible" (sic). Agreeing with Thomas Roberts, he adds, "Even your physical and cerebral fatigue will disappear" (page 113). What Ramseyer is careful not to say is that counting Ave Marias in this way, like the proverbial counting sheep, can have the same soporific effect.
Such tomfoolery! And these people claim to explain the Bible to us! Their doctrine on the subject is necessarily on the same level as these absurdities. Who would entrust historical textbooks to such freakish writers? In school our children would learn that during World War II, Montgomery, Yamamoto and Patton were fighting side by side against Nimitz, Rommel and MacArthur. What a jumble it would be if history were taught as some expound the Bible! Poor, poor Christianity nourished by such nonsense. How severely Paul writes, "have nothing to do with godless myths and old wivesí tales" (I Tim.4:7). Roberts and Ramseyer, amongst others, are in the category of those who desecrate sacred things, transforming a spiritual gift, meant to be a public sign for unbelieving Israel as to the salvation of the Gentiles, into the absurd prescription of a quack doctor. In the same paragraph where he speaks of old wivesí tales, Paul also speaks of two spirits, "The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits, and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron" (I Tim. 4:1). Never, never has such profanation appeared in the teaching of true men of God who challenge the Pentecostal teaching of the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
Misinformation and Disloyalty
To this profanation one can add a spirit of dishonesty and distortion of facts, especially where the leaders are concerned. G. Ramseyer, on another occasion, commenting on my first book on the same topic I Speak in Tongues More Than You All, says that it begins with the threadbare argument that the gift ceased after apostolic times. Now, precisely, the accused book begins with the contrary argument, that is, a position favorable to Pentecostalism. No, the Holy Spirit is not dyslexic, he does not specialise in misinformation or topsy-turvy reading. The more someone speaks in tongues and recommends it, the more the expression of his tongue or his pen is to be treated with caution. Some of their writers, in order to recuperate the power in the preaching of Moody or Finney, do not hesitate to affirm that these two men of God spoke in tongues, as a sign of their baptism in the Spirit and of their power. The same thing is spread abroad concerning other known servants of God. When this rumour is refuted, they go so far as to say that they must have done so without realising it. Desiring to know the truth of the matter, a friend of mine wrote to the Director of the Moody Bible Institute to enquire at the source whether, as had been published, Moody had experienced the baptism of the Spirit in the Pentecostal sense, and if he had taught this doctrine. I personally saw the reply which asserts that no trace of this doctrine is found in Moodyís teaching. It seems that because one day he said that someone he was speaking about needed to be baptised in the Holy Spirit, this was used by some to give the impression that Moody recommended this doctrine. Since these people quote from The Life of Moody, it is certain that they are dishonest in their interpretation. Here, as elsewhere, these friends have terribly deformed the truth, even historical truth as, for example, in the Welsh revival. The tongues movement tries, even today, to appropriate that revival to their advantage and to consider themselves its authors. Tongues manifestations were, as in other revivals, an infiltration several years after the beginning of the revival.
A spirit of disloyalty, practically unknown in other groups, animates this movement. A few years ago I was invited by an Evangelisation Committee to be the evangelist during a campaign held in a large town in Eastern France. This effort grouped all the evangelical churches of the city, including the Assembly of God. Counsellors, a certain number from each community, had been chosen and trained to welcome those who would respond to the invitation. As far as we can judge this side of eternity, Godís Spirit was at work and many responded, especially the last evening. It was on this occasion that it was discovered that the Pentecostal friends had secretly increased the number of their counsellors, aiming to monopolise the new converts. To crown the deception, without advising the other churches, the Pentecostals distributed invitations for a series of meetings a few days later in their own church, on subjects that one can imagine. In all the churches engaged in this campaign only one betrayed the others and it was the one that had, moreover, the "Spirit", but which spirit? This led one of my friends to say to them, "My Holy Spirit is not dishonest".
As for cause and effect, the argument most often used to try to blur these serious moral problems is that of numerical growth, comparatively more rapid in the charismatic type of church, as if success and numbers were a guarantee of truth. If growth can be a cause for rejoicing it is not a test of truthfulness. The wood, hay and stubble of 1 Cor.3 occupy much greater space than gold, silver and precious stones. Even in a democracy the majority is not always right. If it were so, to whom should we turn? to Jehovahís Witnesses, Mormons, Islam or Eastern religions who, in these last decades, have experienced a resurgence and phenomenal growth, both widespread and disquieting? Rather than giving our advice, which we know will not be accepted, we prefer to leave the conclusion to conservative Pentecostals. Facing the rapid growth of their charismatic "alter ego" (who share the same doctrine of tongues and baptism of the Spirit), they still believe that "healings, prophecies, miracles are not from the Holy Spirit but from another spirit... which spirit has caused this movement to develop so vigorously" (Charismatic Renewal, page 13 from chapter 1). We, simple people, should like to be informed how the same biblically untenable doctrine is a product of the Holy Spirit on the one hand (among Pentecostals), and meets His disapproval on the other hand (among the charismatics).
(*1) This chain of well-known names is far from being exhaustive and does not automatically recommend their global theology, methods, ecclesiology, associations, particularism...
(*2) 3.000 is the charismaticsí fetish number since it is the number of conversions recorded on the day of Pentecost; you find it often mentioned in their prayers, expectations and reports.
II. CAUSE AND EFFECT (*1) -- DOCTRINALLY ADRIFT
In chapter 1 we gave an account of the rigorous biblical analysis of the gifts of the Spirit practised in the charismatic movement. That was twenty years ago. Practically the entire Pentecostal movement subscribed to its final conclusion that implied that it was Beelzebub grimacing and pulling the strings of this baptism in the Spirit and the gift of tongues. The wind seems to have turned 180 degrees. Without any doctrinal rectification on the part of charismatics of all shades, traditional Pentecostalism is beginning to adulate what it had once burned. So it was that the top directors of the Assemblies of God officially joined up with the Ecumenical Council of Churches. Most of them are now arm in arm, not only with charismatic Catholics but also with the Roman Catholic Church. How could it be otherwise since the traditional churches are now open to their particular doctrine? How can they still see in the Pope a figure of the Antichrist since he appropriates and blesses the Pentecostal experience in his church? Why evangelise people who no longer need evangelising since they speak in tongues, through the Holy Spirit who is also the Spirit of Jesus (Acts 16:7)? Why speak of going to heaven to people, who, without other knowledge of the new birth than their baptism as an infant, already speak the tongues of the angels in heaven? In twenty years what was considered to be in fashion has changed. On almost every level one notes an abandon of the command "to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints" (Jude 3). Instead of a healthy resistance to error, we find that the spirit of this age has taken its place, a spirit of neutrality and of compromise, even of capitulation, going so far that one is afraid to speak the truth for fear of upsetting others. Here is an example.
Until recent years literature, books and other tools to help in evangelising seekers within Catholicism were easily available. This has drastically changed. At present Christian bookshops rarely, if ever, carry such material, and the growing philosophy in Christian circles is that Roman Catholics are really brothers and sisters in Christ. In the same way the classic Pentecostal position has greatly changed. There are still, here and there, a few blocks of resistance, a few small groups confined to rear-guard skirmishes, and for how much longer? A feeling of oneness with the papal church has been expressed by conservative Pentecostal leaders. Kathryn Kuhlman, known for her extreme sensitivity to spiritual atmospheres, had a private audience with Pope Paul as early as October 11, 1972. She said, "When I met Pope Paul there was a oneness of spirit between us. There was an interpreter, but we needed no interpreter". Rex Humbard visited the same pope. Featuring this in the March 1980 issue of Response he said, "as we talked together, I sensed more and more that our mission was the same: to build the body of Christ; to uphold our brethren in the Lord; to win the people for the kingdom; to share that message that Jesus gave us to share".
As for Cardinal Augustin Bea, Jesuit and secretary to the Vatican for Ecumenism, he is not far behind with regard to Pentecostalism. Very quickly he perceived that Pentecostalism with its specific doctrines was providing new energy in the efforts of the Vatican to attain unity within Christendom. His satisfaction knew no bounds when the Christian Business Menís Full Gospel Association accepted fervent and practising Catholics on the sole basis of their Pentecostal experience.
It was "Logos International", organ of the above-mentioned group, that said, "Possibly no single person has influenced the charismatic renewal as much as David D. Du Plessis, to ensure that it would be both charismatic and ecumenical". (Jan-Feb 81). In that same edition Mr. Du Plessis spoke of Pentecostal-Roman Catholic unity in these words, "For the salvation of humanity, the Church must accept the blessing of the Church at Pentecost as unity". Du Plessis, also called "Mr. Pentecost", experienced this unity in miniature when, at St. Peterís Basilica in Rome 20.000 charismatics gathered at the Vatican for the 1975 Congress on the Charismatic Renewal in the Roman Catholic Church. He told the story in these words, "Pope Paul stepped to his throne... During the celebration of the eucharist (emphasis added), there was singing in the Spirit, gently, tenderly, reverently, and absolutely fitting. It was indeed a Pentecostal service, with Pentecostal manifestations and very evident Pentecostal blessings. All of us had prayed for a Pentecostal miracle to take place, but no one had expected such a rich and positive manifestation of a new Pentecost... I perceived that night that three trends were at work in the Pentecostal movement in general. There were the classic Pentecostals, the Neo-pentecostals and the Catholic Pentecostals. And more and more those trends were converging, in cooperation, in fellowship, in regard for one another... ĎGloryí I said aloud into the darkness, addressing myself, ĎDavid, you are now a real ecumaniac!í(sic) ĎThatís right,í I said back to myself, ĎIíll accept nothing less than full ecumenicity, the whole family of nationsí". (A Man Called Mr. Pentecost, pp. 238-244).
What is the Pentecostal position regarding unity with the Roman Church? Their spokesman, the only man to bear the name "Mr. Pentecost" says "NOTHING LESS THAN FULL ECUMENICITY". And what is full ecumenicity? The answer was carefully spelled out by the head of the Roman Church himself when he faced the 523 charismatic delegates of the fourth international conference held May 4th-9th, 1981 in Rome, "YOUR CHOICE AS THE SITE OF THIS CONFERENCE IS A SPECIAL SIGN OF YOUR UNDERSTANDING OF THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING ROOTED IN THAT CATHOLIC UNITY OF FAITH AND CHARITY THAT FINDS ITS VISIBLE CENTER IN THE SEE OF PETER". (emphasis added). These words were from the lips of Pope John Paul II. The event brought 523 delegates of the worldís charismatic movement together. Its purpose? Unity and a definition of its terms. The address was given at the Vatican gardens and in the Lourdes Grotto of the Blessed Virgin. There the Pope listed several guidelines for charismatic renewal, "the first of these principles is fidelity to the authentic doctrine of the faith. Whatever contradicts this doctrine does not come from the Spirit..."
Yes, but what doctrine? At the end of this twentieth century our mistrust of Romanism may appear to date back to another age. To refresh our failing memories concerning this doctrine, here is an extract of the oath taken by the prelates, participating in the Council of Vatican II, which does not date from the Middle Ages. As we read this oath, let us remember that all subordinates, charismatics or not, are bound to adhere to it, having personally pronounced their vows with this understanding.
"I recognize firmly and I embrace the apostolic traditions, rules and customs of the Church. In the same way I recognize the Holy Scriptures with the interpretation that our Holy Mother, the Church held and still holds today. She is to judge the true meaning and interpretation of Holy Scripture. Never will I interpret it otherwise than according to the interpretation of the Fathers.
I confess also that there are, in the proper and true sense of the term, seven sacraments of the New Covenant that have been established by our Lord Jesus Christ, and that are necessary for the salvation of the human race, although they may not all be essential for each individual: baptism, confirmation, the eucharist, penitence, extreme unction, ordination, marriage; that they communicate grace and that amongst them baptism, confirmation and ordination cannot be renewed without sacrilege. I also accept all the rites approved by the Church during the administration of these sacraments.
I entirely accept all that has been decided and declared at the Council of Trent, concerning original sin and justification.
I further confess that in the Mass is consummated a true expiatory sacrifice for the living and for the dead, that in the very holy sacrament of the eucharist the body and the blood, at the same time as the soul and the divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, are really present, that there is a transformation of the whole substance of the bread into the body and of the whole substance of the wine into the blood. This transformation the Catholic Church names transubstantiation. I confess, moreover, that the Christ and the real sacrament are entirely present, even in one kind.
I believe firmly that purgatory exists and that the souls who are there enclosed find help in the prayers of the believers.
I also firmly believe that one should pray to the saints and venerate those who reign with Christ, that they pray for us to God and that we should venerate their relics. I hold firmly that one should have and keep images of Christ, of the mother of God, always a virgin, also other saints, that one should pay them the respect and veneration that is their right.
I also say that Christ has given to the Church full authority for the indulgences and that their use brings great blessing to Christian people.
I recognize the holy Roman Catholic, Apostolic Church as the Mother and Teacher of all churches. I promise and swear true obedience to the Roman Pope, successor of St. Peter, the prince of apostles and vicar of Jesus Christ.
I accept also without any doubt and I confess all other matters transmitted, decided and declared by the Holy Ecumenical Councils, above all by the holy Council of Trent, and by the Ecumenical Council of the Vatican principally concerning the primacy of the Bishop of Rome and his infallible authority. At the same time I condemn, I reject and I curse (anathematise) all that is in contradiction to the above and all the false doctrines, which the Church has condemned, rejected and cursed. This true Catholic faith, apart from which no one can be saved, which I here confess freely and to which I hold firmly, I also vow to preserve constantly and to confess, pure and unadulterated until my last breath; I will take care, as far as it depends upon me, that it shall be preserved, taught, and preached by my subordinates or by those under my care by virtue of my office. I promise, I thus make a vow and I swear to this. So help me God and the holy gospels."
Some incorrigible optimists naively try to convince themselves that some of these subordinates, with whom they share a warm charismatic identity, are not bound by the system that employs them. Let them therefore challenge the bearers of the above-quoted doctrines who deny them in private conversation, to abjure them publicly. Their response, or rather lack of response, would speak volumes!
In addition, we relate here a few extracts of John Paul IIís prayer to Mary for the celebration of the Marian year that ended the 15th of August, 1988. Apart from the abomination of addressing this prayer to a dead person (Deut. 18 and 1 Samuel 28), please weigh each word:
"The Holy Spirit has loved you, his mystic bride. He has loaded you with outstanding gifts. On the eve of the third Christian millenium we entrust to you the Church, which recognizes you and prays to you as to a mother. We entrust to you with faith, mother of men and nations, all of humanity. Uphold, oh Virgin Mary, our path of faith, and obtain for us the grace of eternal salvation, oh clement, oh pious, oh gentle mother of God and our mother, Mary".
No need for comments! Yet unity is expressed, not only with the Catholic charismatics who glorify in tongues the mystic bride, the mother of God along with their Sovereign Pontiff, but also with the Roman Church itself as we have noticed, by Mr. Pentecost, the leader of those baptised in the Spirit.
Where are the Pentecostal voices of dissent? The silence is deafening! As Nelson Ewins puts it rightly, the rallies, the conferences, the journals and the books, all are unanimous as they blissfully pay court to the Roman Church and there is no verbal or documented voice of concern! The global Pentecostal scene is one of total ominous calm - a foreboding stillness that the hosts of heaven might even call a deathlike hush.
There is another dreadful silence. It comes from the stadium of Catholic charismatic renewal. Why is there no cry of protest against their churchís departure from apostolic truth? After all, Rome still holds to regeneration of the sinner through water baptism. Salvation is by good works, sacramental grace, personal sacrifices and a system of merits. There is no assurance for the individualís soul. Atonement for sin is sought through fasting, penance, prayer and indulgences. Salvation of the soul is still completed in the flames of purgatory. Mary is honored as co-redeemer with Christ and she is still Romeís "Queen of Heaven". The saints are addressed as mediators. Veneration of relics, statues and the saints is still accepted. A Christ is offered every minute of the day in the sacrifice of the mass for the sins of the living and the dead. The communion bread or host is worshipped as the true God of heaven. Salvation through faith alone in Christ and His shed blood is officially rejected. In a deadly silence of mute consent, charismatic leaders and millions of their followers adhere to these dogmas, council decisions and the papal encyclicals of their church. Such teachings were unknown in the early Church and only emerged many centuries later. No apprehension is expressed and no warning of this man-made religious structure is sounded to their 800 million or so fellow Catholics. Instead, the anti-biblical system is left silently and respectfully intact. The status quo is to be maintained on into the future. In fact, the elimination of any idea of change was reaffirmed by the present pope shortly before he welcomed the charismatic conference. He said, "Keep in mind that the teaching of the Council of Trent on the necessity of integral confession of mortal sins is still in force and will be in force forever in the Church..." No contradiction, no murmur of disagreement, not even a whisper of discontent is heard. On the contrary. Amongst our numerous documents, we have a copy of the monthly Pentecostal publication Charisma and its corresponding Catholic New Covenant. On the front cover of the first is the photo of Mother Angelica, and on the other, that of D. Du Plessis, Mr. Pentecost. Why continue to be at one anotherís throats, when obliged to recognise that, with no conversion and no concern for doctrine, both have the same experience in the Spirit! If the Spirit speaks, works, heals, baptises, awakens and renews both the one and the other, the theory of those conservative Pentecostals that we used earlier is rendered untenable and void. This is the consensus today of the vast majority of Pentecostals throughout the world.
When Rome Reacts
Why does Rome not excommunicate the whole charismatic movement in her midst, and why is she so favorably disposed towards the Pentecostal world, which returns the compliment? Because the former entirely agrees with the Roman dogmas and the latter does not reject them. But when Rome is faced with a firm stand contrary to her ideas, she reacts as violently as in the past. On the 22nd of December 1988 the weekly Hebdo (Swiss equivalent of Time magazine in the USA) published an article entitled "The excommunicated priest" in which it is reported that... "Fr. G. Daillard, priest of Gršchen in Valais (a stronghold of Romanism in Switzerland), has not only forfeited his ministry but has been purely and simply excommunicated. What lighting struck him? The priest of Gršchen has revealed the pagan origins of devotion to the Virgin, making her a false god. Mary was the mother of Jesus, her exemplary life still speaks to us today but we should not worship her. His questioning the Assumption of the Virgin was the last straw. ĎThis churchman has chosen to be a hereticí explains the diocese." If all kinds of charismatics, including Pentecostals, enjoy Romeís blessing it is because they respect the Roman Catholic teaching. They have become less dangerous for Rome than a simple parish priest. They are no longer contagious. It seems that they have lost the virus of heresy. With the help of cause and effect, their own "baptism in the Spirit", passed on to these Catholics, has fully made them their brethren and consequently has, in a spiritual sense, sterilised them.
In 1971 Dr. V. Synan, the well-known Pentecostal historian, could not accept the idea that Roman Catholics had an experience of the Holy Spirit similar to his own. But in early June 1972, at South Bend, Indiana, he saw cars and buses pouring off the highway, bringing thousands of the oldest Pentecostal denominations to join in this large charismatic gathering. Here is what he wrote in his book Charismatic Bridges, "I hurried to the building and I was flabbergasted to see over 10.000 already gathered for the informal meeting... Tongues, prophecies, Scriptures, homilies and choruses came forth with such power and conviction that I was quite literally overwhelmed. They (the Catholics) were singing Ďourí songs and exercising Ďourí gifts. It was more than I could take. A kind of cultural and theological shock sent me running to a side room, where for about fifteen minutes I could do nothing but weep." However impressive this report seems to be, one notes at once, that there is no question of the new birth or the conversion of these Roman Catholics but of their exercise of Pentecostal spiritual gifts. A new vocabulary was adopted and nothing more.
Tongues, prophecies, hymns, Bible-reading and an evangelical vocabulary including such terms as conversion, new birth, baptism in the Spirit, what does that signify to a Roman Catholic? Not much and often, nothing at all. The emotion of V. Synan reveals a total lack of discernment, which is nevertheless one of the gifts of the Spirit (I Cor.12:10). To one group or another, the same words often mask very different realities.
During a Bible Exhibition I accompanied a priest and had a long conversation with him. As he seemed very attentive, I explained to him the "new birth" of which Jesus spoke to Nicodemus as being the indispensable condition for salvation. All through the development of the subject he nodded his head. Right to the end he agreed with what I was saying, to the extent that I wondered if I was dreaming. This lead me to become more explicit in what I was saying, for it was so much in contradiction with the doctrine of salvation of his Church that his agreement would have made me doubt that he was still an authentic representative of that doctrine. If the conversation had ended there I would almost have concluded that I was talking to a child of God, a brother in Christ, truly born again. So I asked the question, "Monsieur líAbbť, when did you experience this new birth?" He replied without hesitation, "when I was baptised". Those four words sufficed to change everything. By referring to his infant baptism he was denying the biblical teaching. "One becomes a child of God through baptism" remained his belief. This "new birth" was the result of the opus operatum of the Churchís sacrament. An immense ravine separated our two positions. When speaking in tongues is the bridge thrown across this chasm allowing people to rejoice in their unity, one can ask on what this bridge is suspended? On ambiguous terminology? On erroneous doctrine? On good feelings or common experiences? Briefly, on wind, or as the Bible puts it, on sand, wood, hay, stubble. But when the fire and the water of judgement pass over that bridge...what will be left?
For others, a spirit of confusion makes them feel and act as if they were at home (even when in a spiritually foreign family), and this, by a clever dialectic, a sort of spiritual schizophrenia. Here is an example. A Catholic girl joined the group of young people where I was teaching that day about the baptism of converts by immersion according to the Bible. This gifted young person with her lively intelligence, entered into our study and discussion. Her perception of adult baptism was surprising. Studying the Bible, she discovered with remarkable ease the whole truth on the subject, and at the same time, the sacramental error of her Church. Outwardly the relevance and the accuracy of her replies could lead one to believe that the days of her attachment to Romanism were numbered. But in a private conversation later, she revealed herself to be a totally different person. What she had understood about baptism was only, for her, the biblical point of view. The Roman Catholic position alone was important to her; she made it clear to me that she had no intention of changing anything in her attitude, neither towards baptism nor towards her Church. Like an adulterous woman who has a husband and takes a lover, she could very well admit one truth and its opposite, and live with both. The friend of whom I spoke in chapter 2 reacted no differently when, forced to admit that his gift of tongues was not scriptural, hid behind these words, "Scripturally you are right but I cannot deny an experience". Since when does truth compromise with error? If Christ compromises with Belial (II Cor.6:15,16) it is because, under the disguise of an angel of light, another has taken His place. From the beginning it has been this "other" that we are seeking to unmask. If it is enough to employ a borrowed biblical vocabulary, to clap hands loudly, to assume ecstatic poses, to jabber words incoherently, and to shout "alleluia" without rhyme or reason, in order to appear as one of the family, the odds are that the spirit behind this Babel is not the Holy Spirit. No, this spirit, who by his "baptism" breeds falsifiers, and who distributes his "gifts", even those that no longer exist, in every which direction, this spirit is highly questionable. It requires us to believe that being unconverted, and remaining so, is without importance. Only a second experience has any value, even if there never was a first one. What? Have a second experience without first repenting, without first being converted, without first yielding to the Word of God, without a doctrinal about-turn! It is not surprising that our generation witnesses an unprecedented religious amalgam, which augurs nothing good and can only lead to a syncretic religion, the ultimate one, which the Bible calls the "Prostitute". Babylon seems to be already advancing on the scene.
The Ecumenical Council of Churches was formed in 1948 with the purpose of creating worldwide religious unity at any cost. That is to say, unity without any discrimination of beliefs, unity including Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Moslems, Zionists and apostate Christendom. This has not stopped the Pentecostal movement (Assemblies of God included) from joining officially the E.C.C. This spreading confusion led (or misled) V. Synan in his answer to Fr. N. Cavnar who had asked him, "How do you see the fact that we (Catholics) have taken great care to turn our charismatics into real Catholics?" He showed his total indifference to the truth by replying, "I have no problem when I see a Catholic charismatic who loves his church. I do not think there would be any advantage in his leaving it. The important thing is that he is a Catholic true to his Church, yet baptised in the Spirit..." (emphasis added).T. Spence, former Pentecostal pastor, enlightened about his movement, wrote, "in the past, ecumenism needed to unite two sectors to become effective: spirit and doctrine. Now that unity is obtained by Ďthe Spirití, one can be sure that doctrinal unity will follow. First, the error, then the practice, and lastly the doctrine. (cf. the Nicolaitans of Revelation 2, it starts by being an error, turns to be a practice in v.6 and finishes as a doctrine in v.15). What we see today is more than progress in the direction of a new ecumenism by the intervention of Catholic charismatics. It is an amalgam which prepares the final religion, that of the Antichrist". (emphasis added).
All my Pentecostal acquaintances were, not so long ago, staunchly opposed to Romanism. What is the CAUSE that made them come to terms with a system that they called "a synagogue of Satan" according to Rev.3:9? The cause of this capitulation is found in their own error, the Pentecostal experience, with which they inoculated Catholics as the following account confirms.
The late Thomas Roberts, whom I knew very well, was a much-appreciated preacher of moderate Pentecostal tendencies. As years passed he became the spearhead of the French charismatic movement. He carried the Pentecostal experience into Roman Catholic circles and there too he saw his "second blessing" in operation with its signs. He worked untiringly to promote inter-church communion experiences between charismatic Protestants and Catholics, for the first during their commemoration of the Last Supper and for the latter, during their falsely-named eucharist. He devoted himself to this so much and so well that he diluted his evangelical identity. Seeing his spiritual children miraculously praying to the Virgin Mary in tongues, he could not object since it was through his ministry and the laying on of his hands that these Catholics, who, be it noted, had not asked for a stone, or a snake or a scorpion, had nevertheless received this "gift". Having never questioned his own experience, he could not contest theirs without retracting his position. He was like a hen who has hatched duck eggs and who follows her ducklings as far as she can into the water. He was so thoroughly soaked that he ended up drowned. Since his spiritual offspring, inspired by the same spirit as he was, prayed to the Virgin, he did the same. One of my friends pointed this out to him and severely reproached him for it. He did not deny the fact but he tried to attenuate it by saying, "we must not consider the prayer that one could address to Mary in the same way as the Roman Catholics see it, but as praise to God for the service of His humble servant". However far-fetched his explanation, the fact is that he prayed to her. Need we remind ourselves that, in addition to this grave doctrinal sin, there is the sin of abomination that consists in addressing the dead. The fact that this dead person was a saint makes no difference in an affair that comes close to necromancy (Deut.18). As D. Cormier understood so well, the spirit who pushes souls in this direction cannot be the Holy Spirit.
No, error is never without consequences. There is always a connection between cause and effect. A doctrine which deforms the biblical texts, which passes over others in silence, which prefers experience to the Bible, can for the moment seem pleasant to the taste, but will end up being bitter to the soul. The fathers of speaking in tongues have eaten sour grapes; soon the teeth of their children will be set on edge. We have just given a glimpse of this causality; we shall see where that will lead in the long run.
The Spirit That Kills
If you constantly try to bring people back to the letter of the Scriptures, you are in danger of being labelled with legalism.
"Brother, havenít you read somewhere that the letter kills but that the Spirit gives life?... You cleave to the letter all right, but by doing so you deprive yourself and others of the glorious freedom of the Spirit!..."
Are we so sure? In II Samuel 6, after a victorious battle, David and a crowd of 30.000 people went to retrieve the ark of God from the Philistines. The scene could very well be a charismatic one. With immense joy, they jumped, danced, sang with harps, lyres, tambourines, sistrums and cymbals. The minor (so they thought) problem of transportation had been taken care of, since they had a brand new cart to carry the ark and a yoke of splendid oxen to pull it. There was no discordant voice, except maybe a legalistic kill-joy like me, to remind them that, according to the Word of God, the ark was to be carried on menís shoulders (Numbers 4:17; 7:9) and that God was to be obeyed to the letter. Had there been such a spoil-sport, they would have retorted,
"Dear old-fashioned brother, you should know that where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (II Cor.3:6,17)... Brother, you are still a slave of the letter that kills; we are the free servants of the Spirit who gives life. Come on, letís go!"
Dare I continue the story? "The Lordís anger burned against Uzzah because of his (also their) irreverent act; God struck him down and he died there..."
The joy of this assembly, rejoicing in spiritual renewal and boosted by a spirit of conquest, fervour and liberty, was short-lived. It ended in a burial service. The conclusion is this: a spirit which does not proceed from the letter of the Scripture kills as much, if not more, than the letter in which the spirit of obedience is absent.
God had given strict irreversible commands not to light the altar of incense with strange fire. The fire had to come from the altar of burnt offerings (Lev.16:12,13). The two sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu perished for having treated lightly Godís rules on this matter (Lev.10.12). No doubt a new fervour is emblazing different sections of Christendom, but fervour is not synonymous with truth. Saul of Tarsus on his way to Damascus was "on fire", "revived" and "committed" (as some would say today). Does this fire come from conversion to Christ by obedient faith (Rom.1:5) in the Word of God ? In the case of Nadab and Abihu, had they obeyed "the letter that kills", they would have had life, while "the spirit of freedom", which in fact, was a spirit of disobedience, was the cause of their death.
We have seen that the baptism of the Spirit and its speaking in tongues, in their charismatic interpretations, are not fires lit by the Word of God. No one will deny that good intentions were the initial spark but is it not said that "the way to Hell is paved with good intentions"? Now, everything is "strange" ("foreign", NIV) in this affair, the fire, the combustible material and, consequently, the religious fervour it generates. Nothing agrees with the scriptural model. Give an evangelical label to this altar if you wish, but if the fire that lights it is "strange" to the Word of God, that can promise nothing good. It is perhaps a sparkling, dazzling, noisy fire that fascinates and captivates but it is never more than fireworks. Here is the great Pyrotechnician at the door. The day is coming when a super-man resembling a lamb and speaking like a dragon will appear with a "strange" name, a super-church and a complete panoply of seductions (Rev.13:11). God calls the appearance of this hyper-charismatic "the mystery of iniquity". This mystery will perfectly suit those who have been enticed by mysticism, the belief that communion with God is possible by contemplation and love without human reason (read "by the spirit without the letter"). This was the case of the Corinthians who prayed by the Spirit bypassing their intelligence, a deviation Paul had to correct (I Cor.14:15). It is in the arena of mystic religions (a strange fire) that the power of the Antichrist will be exercised. Expert in this domain, and by the power of Satan, he will utilize all his panoply of seductions: atmospheres, signs and wonders. Who are those who will be seduced? Those who have not received the love of the Truth and who delight in the moral and doctrinal deviations examined in this book (read II Thess.2:3-12). Who will escape this seduction? We read in the same text, "they will be saved by the sanctification of the Spirit (and not by so-called gifts), and by faith in the truth" (v.13). The security of the Church of Philadelphia who had "little power" is recorded in these words, "you have kept my word... since you have kept my command, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world..." (Rev.3:8-10).
B. Creme, who claims to be John the Baptist, the forerunner of the New Age, announces the imminent return of the "true Christ" in these words, "Christ will operate a mental fusion simultaneously with the entire human race. Each person will hear by telepathy in his own language the words of Christ for He will reproduce on a worldwide scale the event of Pentecost. Humanity will know from these phenomena that this man alone is the true Christ". Will these phenomena really take place? Time alone will tell, but they are in line with the description of the Antichrist, the man of sin whom the Lord will destroy by the breath of His mouth (His Word). All who live by atmospheres, experiences, feelings, flavoured with a few Bible texts often wrenched out of their context, are already ripe for acclaiming this god-man, the new super-Mr. Pentecost, who (II Thess.2:4) will reign in the temple of billions of hearts, which in a burst of blind mysticism will pledge limitless devotion to this "other Jesus", the hyper-pontiff of the end times. The charismatic movement prepares the coming of this universal surrender of mankind as it sows the confusion of Babylon in human spirits.
When asked, "Where do you think this is all heading"? Dr. Synan, spokesman of the worldwide Pentecostal movement, said, "... I think it is clear that in the last decade of this century and in the first decades of the next, Christian affairs will be more and more in the hands of Catholics and Pentecostals. And the only bridge between these groups, at grass-roots level at least, is the charismatics... Pentecostalism, which emphasizes the power of the Spirit, is the greatest force in Christendom today. This is the power that will revolutionize Christianity, and this is what Pentecostals and Catholic charismatics have in common..." (New Covenant, January 1984). How quickly things and doctrines change! In less than two decades, the analysis of the charismatic renewal (mentioned in chapter 1), which at that time suited the conservative Pentecostals so well, is now thrown into the dustbin. What Ewin Wilson has said is so true, "the call to unity in that spirit is an extraordinary power, it is true, one that will unite the different parts of apostate Christendom, the false bride of Christ, the mystic Babylon, the prostitute".
But another voice can be heard. Its appeal is not based on the mystic experiences of glossolalia, but on a unity born of separation as defined in the Bible. The true Holy Spirit of God says, "Come out from among them, my people, and separate yourselves, says the Lord, touch not that which is impure and I will receive you" (II Cor.6:17).
The spirit that presides over the present glossolalia draws millions of people to make a pact with the abominable errors of an idolatrous system. It is a system which God hates and which He has undertaken to destroy. It is He who says in Revelation 18:4, "come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues".
It is true that, here and there, some isolated Pentecostal groups have officially distanced themselves from some of these doctrines, but are they to be praised for doing so? If you scrape the surface, you find that they are the same people who, while no less officially proclaiming their belief in divine healing alone, go to doctors and take medicine in secret. This hypocritical duality has so impregnated their lives that they can live with one idea and its opposite without the slightest blushing. Thus, "courageous" declarations of disapproval are issued against Faith Word, Positive Thinking, Toronto Blessing, Prosperity and Marian teaching etc... as advocated by Yonggi Cho, Wagner, Bunkke, Wimber, Schuller, O. Roberts, Fathers Regimbald, Tom Forest and others, but hardly have these people or their lieutenants set foot in their own territory than all caution and past criticism is thrown to the winds. You see these "cautious" brethren all rushing to welcome them, advertising their arrival, welcoming their committees and encouraging their own congregations to join the meetings where what is expounded is just what they say they are against. On paper they seem to disapprove of all sorts of teaching ranging from Mary to "Health and Wealth" gospel, and yet they work hand in hand, share the same pulpit and have the closest associations with those holding to these same errors they have warned against. This two-faced attitude is denounced in Romans 2:21-22, "You who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery?" Transpose this into our debate and it reads, "You who can discern spiritual adultery in others, you join in yourself! What you stigmatize with your words, you by-pass with your deeds!" We are confronted here with an obvious spiritual dichotomy or split-personality, a moral disease that those infected cannot get rid of because they all have what they themselves call "a common, basic sublime experience", that of an unscriptural post-conversion baptism of the Spirit backed up by a no less unbiblical speaking in tongues. As long as this CAUSE is cultivated and cherished, this type of moral and doctrinal contradiction will continue to flourish in the movement.
(*1) In this chapter, extracts are taken from E. Wilsoní s The Spirit of Pentecostal-Charismatic Unity, The Emerging 666 Peace and The Pied Piper of the Pentecostal Movement. Minor variations may be found; they are due to a re-translation from French into English. The general and accurate meaning has been carefully preserved.
This supplement is added in response to a few issues that have been raised time and time again. It seemed appropriate to do so as they are within the scope of our subject. However, as the true gift of tongues has ceased, there really is no point in raising these issues, but it would be ungracious to ignore them and so we agree to reply in order not to leave any loose ends. We do so in the light of I Cor. 13:8 where the cessation of this gift is foretold. Before proceeding, the reader is advised to re-read Chapter 8 of this present work.
SPEAKING IN TONGUES IS AN EXPERIENCE EVERY CHRISTIAN SHOULD HAVE.
This has been said over and over again. In his book Twenty-one Reasons Why Christians Should Speak in Tongues, G. Lindsay strongly supports this idea. The Pentecostal view of baptism in the Holy Spirit lies behind the argument. The reader is referred to Chapter 9, which demonstrates that the biblical doctrine on this matter is completely different from what some would have us believe. The most quoted verse in support of the idea is Paulís "I wish you all spoke with tongues" (I Cor. 14:5). If we are to take the apostleís desire as a doctrinal imperative, how then are we to understand the same apostleís words in the same epistle where he says, "I wish that all men were as I am", that is celibate (I Cor.7:7)! In Greek, the two expressions I wish are identical. Should both of these desires be legally binding? Please observe (allow me to be just a little mischievous) that those who see a green light in reading I Cor.14:5, see a red one at I Cor.7:7! Have they suddenly become colour-blind? Now if the first passage gives us a standard for the Christian life, then to be fair we have to admit the second passage does too. All those who want to encourage speaking in tongues would also have to tie themselves to celibacy. What kind of mental gymnastics could lead us to say that we should do as Paul said as far as speaking in tongues is concerned but not for marriage? This tongue-in-cheek remark has always hit the nail on the head. I said all this to a young man who was fanatical about the gift of tongues and he practically did me in. He was furious. To justify himself he put forward an idea he had read somewhere that Paul was not actually celibate but a widower. He wasnít teaching me anything new. The idea is based on the fact that in order to be a member of the Sanhedrin it was necessary to be married. And as Saul of Tarsus had been a member of the Sanhedrin he could not have been celibate, but was probably a widower. I pointed out that if this had been the case, Paul would have been implying that he wished all men to be widowers! This evidently ridiculous conclusion left the young man speechless. He turned on his heels and left.
There is a strong doctrinal implication behind Paulís words. Just as not all the Corinthians were called to celibacy, so not all of them were called to speak in tongues. Paul accepted both of these ideas. On the one hand, not all had the gift of celibacy (I Cor.7:7), and on the other hand not all had the gift of tongues, as he says, "Are all apostles? Do all prophesy? Are all teachers?... Do all speak in tongues?" To ask the question is to supply the answer. If it were otherwise there would be only one way to understand the five elements of the Lordís words in Mark 16:17,18, "And these signs will accompany those who believe. In my name "1) they will drive out demons, 2) they will speak in new tongues, 3) they will pick up snakes with their hands, 4) and when they drink deadly poison it will not hurt them at all, 5) they will place their hands on the sick people and they will get well. Thus all who believed would be obliged to prove their faith not only by speaking in tongues, but also by all casting out demons, all drinking a deadly concoction or by eating a poisonous dish without any risk, by all healing the sick and by all plunging their hands into a nest of vipers, following the apostle Paulís example, who was bitten by one without coming to any harm. In fact, none of those who demonstrate their spiritual prowess by speaking in tongues dare to do so with serpents.
One day a pastor, an extremist in this line of thought, tried to convince me that speaking in tongues was a necessary experience for every Christian. I opened my Bible and I asked him to read with me the verses quoted above (I Cor.12:29,30),
"Are all apostles?" "No, of course not" he replied.
"Are all prophets?" "No!"
"Are all teachers?" "No!"
At this point he refused to go any further. He had just realised where the passage was leading him, namely to the next question, "Do all speak in tongues?" The answer could not be anything other than "No!" and he knew it. Three times I tried to go through the text with him. Three times he refused to read it through to the end. He went away really annoyed with me.
Thus we see that even in Paulís time, when the true gift existed and was intended to be used as a sign to the many Jews who did not believe in the international scope of salvation, not everyone had this gift, for "the Spirit works all things, distributing to each one individually as he wills" (I Cor.12:11). In the same way that not all were apostles, or prophets, or celibate, so too, not all spoke in tongues.
I SPEAK IN TONGUES MORE THAN YOU ALL (I COR. 14:18)
This passage is not about volubility. These loquacious Corinthians were more talkative than Paul, whose speech they found contemptible (II Cor.10:10). Paul was not trying to compete with Corinthian fluency. The reason why he tells them he speaks in tongues more than all of them is simple. Paul was the apostle of the Gentiles, sent by God to foreign peoples, that is, to those who spoke anything other than Hebrew. His calling was contested by his Jewish adversaries who tried to prevent him speaking to the Gentiles (I Thess.2:13). Not only unconverted Jews, but also the converted among Israel, had much difficulty in grasping this new feature, this specific truth for the beginning of the church era, established at Pentecost. From now on, God was pouring out His Spirit on all flesh, which is the same as saying, on all the language groups of the world. The book of Acts shows that everywhere Paul went, he came into contact and conflict with the Jews on this subject. In speaking miraculously in tongues by the Spirit, Paul reinforced his teaching with the foreordained sign. He was showing them that foreign languages could, as well as theirs, praise Yahveh the God of Israel and that the separating wall that stood between them and the bearers of these tongues had been broken down once for all. And to prove the point, this liberated and enlightened ex-Pharisee proclaimed miraculously, in the presence of the Jews and by his own Jewish lips, the wonderful works of their Yahveh in heathen languages. An amazing discovery for the Jews and the Gentiles who accepted this new truth but a promised fire of judgement to unbelieving and hostile Jews. More than anyone, and perhaps the only one of his generation, Paul could say without boasting, "I laboured more abundantly than all of them" (I Cor.15:10). As a result of his special calling, his frequent travels, his unceasing labour and his new contacts, Paul also spoke in tongues more than all the others.
DO NOT FORBID SPEAKING IN TONGUES (I COR. 14:19)
We want to clarify that the charisma Paul spoke about here was the true gift and not the counterfeit we are confronted with today. Despite its authenticity, it was tainted by such ill use in the Corinthiansí practice of the gift that the inspired apostle had to write almost three chapters to get them back on track. They misused and abused the gift just as Samson did his Herculean strength, which he had also received from God. Champion of the baby bottle class, first prizewinner for childishness (just like the Corinthians in I Cor. 14:20), he all too often used and abused his gift to serve his personal and carnal goals. God did not prevent him from using the strength He had given him, but Samson had not received it to use it as he sometimes did. In the same way, Paul had to severely correct the errors of the Corinthians, but as the gift was still in use he could not forbid them to use it appropriately. But when it was inappropriate, as for instance when there was no interpreter, Paul forbade speaking in tongues, instructing the would-be speaker to keep quiet (I Cor.14:28). The same principle applied to the gift of tongues as to the completion of the canon of the New Testament. Paul could have very well said he wrote more epistles than anyone else, and indeed, more than all the other writers together. As with tongues he points out the existence of dubious epistles (II Thess.2:2), but he does not prevent John, Peter or Luke, or anyone else from writing authentic ones. Nevertheless, to continue writing epistles today or to counterfeit the gift of tongues, when both of these gifts have ceased, can only be described as forgery and the use of forgeries.
HE WHO SPEAKS IN A TONGUE...SPEAKS TO GODÖ HE UTTERS MYSTERIES (I Cor 14:2)
The mysteries referred to here have nothing to do with the modern meaning of the word: incomprehensible, unknown, ungraspable, secret, etc. The word appears 27 times in the New Testament. As Scofield teaches, it refers each time without exception to "a previously hidden truth now revealed in part by God". A very interesting analysis is made in the notes on Matthew 13:11 in the Scofield Bible, where he lists the ten mysteries:
1. The mystery of the kingdom of heaven.
2. The mystery of the hardening of Israel.
3. The mystery of the Church made of Jews and Gentiles, the Bride of Christ.
4. The mystery of the life of Christ in us.
5. The mystery of God, namely Christ.
6. The mystery of godliness.
7. The mystery of the rapture of the saints.
8. The mystery of iniquity.
9. The mystery of the seven stars.
10. The mystery of Babylon.
Those who spoke in tongues worshipped God on the basis of most (or all) of these mysteries. They are exactly the same mysteries that the redeemed proclaim when they praise the Lord. - Oh, how much we bless Him for His coming kingdom which we look forward to by faith without being able to fathom its depths! - Oh, what praise we express for the grace shown to us who were far off, without any claim to citizenship in Israel, but who have become heirs of the promise as a result of their fall! (Rom.11).- Oh, what adoration for the mystery of Christ Himself, for the mystery of His incarnation, the mystery of God who leaves His glory and returns to it after having been manifested in flesh even the angels desire to look into these marvellous things! Oh, what thanksgiving for the day when the mystery of iniquity that corrupts the earth will be finished!- Oh, what blessing too for the day when the dead and the living in Christ will be given spiritual bodies made like His glorious body and when the redeemed will all say, "Amen, come Lord Jesus"! - But the mystery, more closely related to praise than any other and expressed by the sign in foreign languages, that was the most relevant and significant at that time, was namely "the mystery... that the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus" (Eph.3:3,6).- After having explained the mystery of the blinding of Israel and the salvation of the Gentiles, Paul says, "God has bound all men over (Jews and Gentiles) to disobedience so that He might have mercy on them all". As if dazzled by this truth, Paul concludes in a doxology, "Oh the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgements and His paths beyond finding out!" (Rom.11:33). This mystery is such that the twenty-four elders in Rev.5 bow down in adoration and sing a new song to the glory of the Lamb who was slain and who had redeemed men from every tribe, EVERY TONGUE, and every people and every nation by His blood. It is because of these mysteries that Peter and others glorified God in foreign languages on the day of Pentecost - the inaugural day of a dispensation that, from then on, spread out to include all people and all languages of the earth. They gave a clear explanation then and there to all those who had not understood that, from that moment onward, God was pouring out His Spirit on all languages of the earth (all flesh). The fact that they proceeded to speak fifteen of those languages on the spot, was irrefutable proof of this doctrine.
WHY ONLY TO THE JEWS?
Insisting with Paul that speaking in tongues was a sign to the Jews only, as was the case for Peterís vision, might cause some to ask with a certain irritation, "Why only to the Jews?" Apart from the fact that in I Cor.14:21 the Holy Spirit specifies to this people and that even common sense prevents our reading it otherwise, two other reasons can be added:
1. Twelve times the expression this people is found in the New Testament and it always means Israel.
2. Rom.9:4 explains that the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, the promises and the patriarchs all belong to the Israelites, the Jews.
It was for them, first of all, that the Saviour came. The apostles were Jews; in the beginning the church was entirely Jewish; everything, including the proclamation of the gospel, was in Jewish hands. Furthermore, the best placed among them, especially Peter, would not have considered sharing the Good News with foreigners (Acts 10:28), whom they regarded as barbarians speaking barbaric languages. The two signs God used to convince this people of the universal character of the Gospel were the speaking by the Spirit in these detested languages and Peterís vision. By these signs God overcame their reticence to preach the Gospel to other nations.
The communication of this truth could only be understood in the direction of Jews to Gentiles - never Gentiles to Jews or Gentiles to Gentiles. I came upon an extreme example of completely reversing the meaning of this sign. A particular magazine focused on "experiences" reported that a French pastor totally ignorant of Hebrew began to speak in this language by the Spirit and was understood by a colleague. A whole audience of seriously-minded people welcomed this biblically "orthodox" event. Assuming the account is true (having witnessed so many false reports in this area we can allow ourselves a certain scepticism here) we are confronted with a most blatant counterfeit.
1. First of all, the gift was recognised and understood by a believer already convinced of the universal scope of the offer of salvation. Apart from the fact that the sign did not teach him anything new, it was in complete contradiction to the Holy Spiritís teaching that the sign was for unbelievers.
2. The gift of tongues as taught and practised in the New Testament was anything but Hebrew. Indeed the languages spoken by the Spirit are defined as being FOREIGN and BARBARIAN, that is, anything other than Hebrew. Now, who were these foreigners and barbarians? There is only one possible answer: non-Jews. It goes without saying that no Gentiles needed to be convinced that the Jews could have access to God, because it was God who had sent the Jews to announce the Gospel to them! The sign was given so that the Jews would understand that salvation was available to the nations and NEVER THE CONTRARY!!
A Frenchman speaking in Hebrew reverses the divine order as much as, say, Peterís vision given to Cornelius the Gentile would. Furthermore, when Cornelius was saved upon Peterís preaching of the Gospel, he did not need to be taught that Peter had as much right to the Gospel as he did. That would have been a nonsensical misinterpretation of monumental proportions. Could you imagine an Englishman needing a linguistic miracle in French to be convinced that the French have, as it were, a right to French nationality! How ridiculous! This is what the article quoted above was more or less trying to say; speaking in tongues in Hebrew revealed to two French believers that the Hebrews had a right to their own God!
IF ALL SPEAK IN TONGUES... WILL THEY NOT SAY THAT YOU ARE OUT OF YOUR MIND? (I COR. 14:23)
Verses 21 to 25 of I Cor.14 are still a real brainteaser for many Bible expositors.
Verse 21: "Through men of strange tongues and through the lips of foreigners I will speak to this people"
Verse 22: "Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy is for believers, not for unbelievers".
Verse 23: "So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues and some who do not understand or some unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind?"
Verse 24: "But if all prophesy and an unbeliever or an uninformed person comes in, he is convinced by allÖ"In verse 22 the Spirit says that tongues are a sign for unbelievers. But in the following verse he seems to say the opposite: unbelievers find the tongues speakers insane. Here we come to an inextricable paradox that nobody from any persuasion has ever explained to me. For if the reference to unbelievers in verses 22, 23 and 24 does not take into account whether they are Jews or Gentiles, then the apparent contradiction is insurmountable and there is no making heads nor tails of it. But the difficulty disappears of its own accord if we realise that the Spirit had two types of unbelievers in view. The unbelievers of verse 22 are identified in verse 21, "I will speak to this people". They are the Jews and the sign is for them. But the unbelievers in verse 23 are identified by the expression uninformed or simple (J.N. Darby). In Greek, the word is idiotes (a well-known term!). This is just how the Jews regarded the Gentiles: ignorant, barbaric, simple, uninstructed in the law (Rom.2:20). They were men and women of the common people - not this people. This exegesis honours both the text and its context and eliminates the contradiction by confirming that the gift of tongues was obviously outside the scope of the idiotes Corinthians and not for them at all. It was for this people - the Jews - in order to lead them at last to believe that the Gentiles were now grafted, inserted, baptised with them into the Body of Christ which is the Church.
This section cannot be concluded without again drawing attention to the two following verses where the gift of prophecy is contrasted with the gift of tongues, "But if all prophesy and an unbeliever or an uninformed (simple, idiotes) person comes in, he is convinced by all, the secrets of his heart are revealed; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is truly among you" (v.24,25). Although prophecy was primarily intended for believers, it had the immense advantage of being understandable even by "idiotes", because it was delivered in their language. This resulted in consciences being stirred and deep conversions, to the extent that those who were simple among the people fell on their face proclaiming that God was there. If Paul preferred prophecy to tongues (v.19), it was because even when there was an interpretation, the gift of tongues had only a limited effect as its sole purpose was as a sign to unbelieving Jews. Whereas prophecy covered almost all the field of Christian experience as summarised by these three words, "edification, exhortation and comfort" (v.3). This is also the reason why Paul preferred to speak five intelligible words rather than ten thousand in tongues in the church. What does this mean? Thomas R. Edgard writes that if someone says he prefers five cats to ten thousand dogs that suggests that he does not want a dog. This is maybe not the best metaphor, but at least it gets the point across. In any case, as far as numbers are concerned, Paul thought this comparison worth making.
FOR HE WHO SPEAKS IN A TONGUE... SPEAKS TO GOD (I COR. 14:2)
Some jump to the conclusion: since he who spoke in tongues spoke to God, letís make use of it to speak to Him. But speaking to God or edifying oneself, as we have seen before, was not the primary purpose of tongues. This was only one of its components, not its GOAL. Allow me again to clarify what the ultimate purpose of tongues was by way of a comparison.
In certain European countries, buses are officially registered as "Vehicles for Transportation of Persons". That is the primary and sole purpose of buses but someone could say:
1. A bus also burns petrol; who would ever say let us then keep the engine running so as to burn fuel?
2. A bus also make a noise; let us then use it to make as much noise as possible.
3. A bus gives off heat; let us then prove it all the more by even overheating the engine.
4. A bus transports its driver; let him then drive it around Manhattan or Soho just for himself, for the sake of testing his driving skills.
These four feasible points would become nonsensical, were they put into practice. Sure enough, the driver would get the sack immediately!
So it was with the gift of tongues. It is right to think that:
1. it was prayer or praise to God alone,
2. it edified the speaker,
3. it edified the church when interpreted.
But these three points in themselves missed the target as much as driving a bus, without accomplishing its sole and ultimate purpose, does. And what was the purpose of speaking to God in the Gentilesí tongues? Yet again we summarise the Spiritís teaching in I Cor.14: God, in the very mouth of reluctant Jews, breathed out barbarian tongues as a prayer or praise to Himself, to serve as A SIGN to the same unbelieving Jews that the way to their Yahveh was henceforth open to these barbarians whose very languages were now miraculously articulated by their own Jewish lips. What a clear and convincing sign!
PRAY AND SING WITH THE SPIRIT (I COR.14:15)
Ignoring the cessation of the gift of tongues out of hand, this text is often quoted to try to justify using tongues in personal prayer. It is noteworthy that:
1. Paul in no way approved of a purely ethereal prayer that did not have an intellectual counterweight. Not fully quoting the verse that encourages to "pray or sing not only with the Spirit but also with the understanding" (mind), is tantamount to deliberately tailoring the Word of God to oneís personal preferences. In verse 15, this is repeated twice.
2. The spirit in question is the human spirit and not the Spirit of God. The difference is immense. In conscious ignorance of this difference two other texts, having nothing to do with speaking in tongues, are arbitrarily brought in. The first is Eph. 6:18, "Pray in the Spirit on all occasions". The second is Rom 8:26-27, "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with Godís will". Nothing allows us to believe that this is referring to praying in tongues. It has to be totally contrived to be interpreted that way. If this were the case, Jesus would never have prayed in the Spirit seeing He never prayed in tongues. The Bible is full of prayers Jesus made in the Spirit and not one of them was spoken in tongues, neither the famous high priestly prayer of John 17, nor the prayer in agony at Gethsemane. It is said of Stephen, the first Christian martyr, that he was full of the Holy Spirit, full of grace and power, and that he did wonders and miracles and no one could resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke (Acts 6.3,8,10). But although he spoke by the Spirit, he did not give his impressive discourse either in the language of angels (though he resembled one at that moment) or in any other language than what was contemporary.
Who suddenly urged a brother I knew very well to get up in the middle of the night and kneel in prayer for a fellow Christian who just at this time was in danger of death as the plane carrying him in Africa was literally brushing the treetops and tearing away branches that stuck in the undercarriage? Is there a prayer more inspired by the Holy Spirit than this one? And yet it was not spoken in tongues.Why was I recently constrained at a specific time during the day to pray for a brother in Christ who lives nearly 1.000 kilometers from me and of whom I had no detailed news? A conviction I could not resist made me kneel and cry to heaven for him. Only several months later did I learn that at that very time of that day he was passing through the most distressing crisis of his ministry. Only the Spirit of God could have inspired me with that imperative need to pray. The Holy Spirit who moulded this conviction in my spirit and expressed it on my lips did not do so in tongues. How could He have done so, seeing that He had given it as a sign to unbelievers (and there were no unbelievers in the room where I was) and had also determined the cessation of the gift which had now been withdrawn for many centuries according to I Cor.13:8 (see chapter 8).
The last prayer in the Bible (Rev. 22:17-20) is as follows, "And the Spirit and the bride say, Come !... Amen. Come, Lord Jesus". If there is one prayer that is with the Spirit it is undoubtedly this one. But it was no more spoken in tongues than the others.
IS IT NOT TEARING PAGES OUT OF THE BIBLE TO CONTEST THE RELEVANCE OF THE GIFT OF TONGUES ?
No more than contesting the Roman churchís teaching of Mary. Every evangelical Christian unreservedly admits what the Bible says about Mary: the divine choice that singled her out, her faith, her obedience, her courageous acceptance of the risk of shame, the virgin birth of the Saviour, her motherhood, the rebuke received from her Son (John 2:4), her incomprehension of Jesusí ministry (Mark 3:21, 31-35), the Lordís care for his mother (John 19:26,27) and the sixty-five or so years of silence between her last appearance in Acts 1 and the end of Revelation. Admitting that her role is finished and that she is no longer active in the Church militant removes not one page of the written revelation and throws no discredit on the worthy qualities she had as mother of the Saviour, nor on the important part she had in Godís plan for this event. But to jump from there to giving her the position of the Mother of God and of the Church, the Queen of angels and of heaven, the Co-Redeemer, the Mediator of all grace and to thus attribute to her a role in the Church today, leads to a doctrinal monstrosity which we vehemently oppose.Perhaps someone will ask why we raise this issue here? Because it allows us to make a comparison with the subject under discussion. To a friend who said to me one day, "The gift of tongues is biblical, isnít it ?", I simply replied with a similar question, "And Mary, she is biblical, isnít she?" Not any more than for Mary is anyone here even dreaming of contesting the biblical reality and historicity of the gift of tongues, neither its use or the place it had in the Church. It was among the miraculous gifts, such as the gifts of prophecy and knowledge which oversaw the writing of the inspired texts of the New Testament and which no one denies have now ceased. Not a single page of prophecy or knowledge has since been added to the Canon of the Scriptures. We believe, as Paul did, that it was not a sign for believers, but rather for the unbelievers of this people. Again we believe, as Paul and Peter did, that, like any other gifts, it was given for the edification of others and not for personal edification, etc. We believe all of this. But to subject the gift of tongues to the same treatment as the Catholic Church has given Mary, no, thank you! To make of it a message to men, to make it the distinguishing sign of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, to use it in private when it was intended as a public and audible sign to unbelievers, to see in it a remedy for insomnia, to use it as a cure against fatigue, and above all, to spread the idea that it still exists today in its primitive form when, in fact, the gift practised today is nothing other than obvious counterfeit proven by the refusal to put it to the test, this is a step that every enlightened and honest conscience will refuse to take.
It would be no less a case of tearing truths out of the Bible, to affirm with Paul that the Christian is no longer under the Law (Rom.6:14,15) and that whole books of the Bible (nevertheless inspired to the iota) are no longer normative for Christian life. Acknowledging dispensations, recognising that certain great events (the nativity, the crucifixion, the ascension etc.) are forever engraved in history and will never be repeated, other than in the remembrance and in the hearts of believers; yielding to the divine teaching regarding the cessation of certain gifts, tongues included - all these would in no way do violence to the Bible. On the other hand, it is offensive to take historical truths such as Maryís life, speaking in tongues or the sacrifice of the Cross and to claim to reproduce them just as a forger would. Forgers have the moral advantage that at least they go to a lot of trouble to imitate the original, whereas in the sacred domain the imitation is so amateurish that only the blind could be taken in. There is a well-known saying attributed to the Jesuits and taken up by the Nazis, "Lie, lie and something will always remain; donít tell white lies, tell big ones, repeat them and they will be believed in the end". This is what Rome has done with their eucharist and with Mary, and how they have succeeded! Ditto for speaking in tongues and baptism in the Holy Spirit. We are these days witnessing a verbal bombardment that finds its source, as does mariolatry, in the Bible. Immature believers are inundated with biblical-sounding expressions that condition them without their realising it and leave them incapable of rightly exercising their own judgement. The more they are deceived, the more they believe, to a point where bewildering affirmations, like Ramseyerís remedy for insomnia, Thomas Robertsí cure for fatigue, chronologically-displaced interpretations and signs for believers, do not even make them bat an eyelid. The more obvious and verifiable the error, the more fanatically they devote themselves to it. There are those who would give an arm and a leg for the gift of speaking in tongues just as others would give their life for the defence of Mary. When they have gone this far, they have left the objective foundation of Scripture; the limits of sanity have been left behind. Just like the Jesuits, they have become nothing more than the appointed defenders of a particular doctrine. Just as some accuse us of not believing in the Holy Virgin, so others accuse us of not believing in the gift of tongues, without taking the trouble to verify the validity of our objections.
THE CHARISMATIC DEFENCE
When my first book on this subject appeared, entitled I Speak in Tongues More ThanYou All, it was followed by Ralph Shallisí The Gift of Speaking in Different Tongues and the French translation of G.H. Langís Whence Come These Tongues? At the time a friend said to me about the charismatics, "It will be hard for them to find a defence". That didnít take into account the resourcefulness of the human spirit to extricate itself from a difficult situation by "twisting the Scriptures to their own destruction" (II Peter 3:16).
At least six attitudes have since been adopted in an attempt to disguise the insurmountable difficulty:
1. Totally ignore the problem and continue as if nothing had happened.
2. Several church groups have proceeded as follow: Let us speak in tongues and see if it works. And of course it worked! There have even been interpretations to confirm that it was authentic. So it must have been This is just like someone going to a supermarket with a forged bank note and saying, "Because Iíve got the goods and the cashier let me through, the bank note was authentic."
3. Others have said, "The more they try to prove our gift of tongues to be wrong, the more we will use it". This reminds us of a bigot whose patron saint was Philomena. When he found out his saint had never existed he exclaimed, "Whether she exists or not, Iím still going to pray to her!"
4. Someone told me, "Iíll never read your book. If you tried to speak to me about this, I would force myself to think of something else so as not to hear or remember one single word you say!"
5. "We donít agree!" This is not an argument, it is a negation. Before publishing my first book, I passed the manuscript on to some Pentecostal friends asking them to subject it to the most rigorous biblical criticism. Incapable of finding a mistake in the global exegesis, they could only reply, "We donít agree!" That is not what I had asked them. I knew in advance that they did not agree, but I wanted them to show me where I was in contradiction with the Bible. And to this day, none of them has been able to do so.
6. To try to prove to me that his speaking in tongues was still relevant today, a good Parisian sent me a discourteous letter partially written in "a strange language"!!!
A PERSONAL AND PERTINENT QUESTION
Several people have asked me, "Have you spoken in tongues?" The question deserves more than a yes-or-no answer.
Soon after my conversion, my spiritual itinerary was under Pentecostal influence. I went to their assemblies, I got to know their pastors well and worked with them in many gospel campaigns. Many who were saved under my ministry are now an integral part of their churches. Some have a pastoral ministry in the moderate wing of the movement. In the same way that you can be a Baptist by conviction without being a member of a Baptist church, I also shared Pentecostal convictions without being officially part of their movement. My preaching was thereby influenced to the point where some in my own church reacted very badly to what they feared to be a new and wrong orientation. They let me know this via remarks or thinly veiled threats. My adhesion to these ideas, while not complete, was enough for me to be described as a Pentecostal. Consequently, I do not speak of them from the standpoint of someone who comes from outside the movement, but rather from my experiences recorded inside. I know what I am talking about.
In the light of what I have just said, I feel that the above question was not well-phrased. It should be as follows, "Have you spoken in tongues by the Holy Spirit according to the Scriptural model?" To that I reply, "No!" No, neither I nor anyone else has exercised the authentic gift of the Spirit in our time, for all the reasons laid out in this book. But if I am asked if I have babbled like the others some incomprehensible gobbledygook to which a label of supposed authenticity has been attached, then without hesitation I answer "YES!" And I can give a demonstration on the spot to anyone who wishes. An "interpreter" would even find suitable material for a good gospel message in it, which would prove that the "interpretation" would be as false and fanciful as what I was saying "in tongues".
A young friend who recently left the movement humbly confessed (in youngstersí current slang) that the practice of speaking in tongues was "phoney".
-- "How could you submit to this counterfeit?"
-- "Because of the atmosphere of the group; everyone had to try not to give the impression of lagging behind; we were young and ignorant and we were only taught the Bible piecemeal, never systematically. The texts that contradicted our practice were avoided. It was all part of our jargon without our really knowing what it meant. It was there as a remedy for everything that wasnít going well with us. We had to believe, just simply believe. To ask questions was almost the unpardonable sin against the Holy Spirit. We had to plug our ears and distrust anyone described to us as Ďthose losers who do not believe in the Holy Spirití. But my eyes were opened to what the Bible says. I understood that the Holy Spirit and the spirit who led our group were two different spirits!"
DO YOU HOPE TO CONVINCE THE CHARISMATICS BY THIS BOOK OF THEIR DOUBLE ERROR REGARDING BAPTISM OF THE HOLY SPIRIT AND SPEAKING IN TONGUES ?
Though he was Truth incarnate, Jesus was regarded as a trouble-maker. Barabbas was not so disturbing. We know how it ended, "the living stone, (was) rejected by men" (I Peter 2:4). It would be utopic to expect that everyone will reject their favourite error. For them it is like the famous Turin shroud from which we can draw three analogies.
1. It took seven centuries for the Catholic Church to get around to recognising what every Christian with a bit of common sense knew instinctively, that the shroud was a fake. For a long time to come the charismatics will doggedly hold on to the belief that their counterfeit is true, even against all Scriptural evidence. This will last as long as they refuse to bow to Scripture and to submit to the test we spoke of in chapter 6. The Catholic Church had the honesty to do so and we know what the results were! Again, we emphasize that it is because they know what the final result will be that charismatics refuse scientific confrontation.
2. Some admit their error but only in lip service. They do not miss the opportunity to add, as Cardinal Ballestrero did after announcing the myth of the shroud on 13th of October 1988 at 10 oíclock, "The Church reaffirms her respect for and veneration of this image of Christ". So, let it continue! We know the shroud is not authentic but it is better to act as if it were! Isnít this just the point made by a friend regarding I Cor.14:2, where the Holy Spirit says that the one who speaks in tongues does not speak to men but to God, "... when this word of Paul began to circulate in our assemblies it had the effect a bomb, but the idea was not followed up, because we would have had to admit that everything that had been done up then was false". Of course, the current speaking in tongues is false, biblically, scientifically and reasonably speaking, and many charismatics sense that, but they nevertheless still give it their respect and veneration as Israel did in the time of Hezekiah with the bronze serpent Moses had made.
3. Those who are convinced in their hearts will have to pay the price of their conviction and sincerity if, in their particular groups, they protest in faithful obedience to the Word of God simply on the basis of these four texts:
-- I Cor. 12:13 - The purpose of baptism in the Spirit;
-- I Cor. 14:2 Speaking in tongues addressed to God alone;
-- I Cor. 14:21 - The sign for Israel;
-- I Cor. 14:21 - The sign for unbelievers.
In addition, if they insist on saying Jesus never spoke in tongues; if they require a test of the gift of interpretation, then it will not be this book that makes them leave the charismatic circle; the charismatics will beg them to leave. This is exactly what happened to a Christian in Lausanne who was shown to the door of his church simply because he was too biblical. May other evangelical churches receive them as the Lord Himself would receive them.
If I were asked to cite three biblical truths among the most simple and straightforward to summarise, I think I would choose: 1.The doctrine of Mary; 2. The baptism in the Holy Spirit; 3. The gift of speaking in tongues.
1. As far as Mary is concerned, itís easy. Very little is said of her: the prophecy in Isaiah 7:14, the annunciation, the magnificat, the nativity, a few rare glimpses given in the Gospels and a last mention of her presence in the upper room in Acts 1:14, accompanied by her sons, then nothing more. All we read about her is not always to her credit, but it is no less a very beautiful story free of any embellishment and without any hidden meaning. No risk of being misled; just read it and understand it.
2. Baptism in the Holy Spirit is even easier, as its explanation is given to us in one single verse: 1 Cor. 12:13, "For we were all baptised by one Spirit into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free". It is the initial affiliation of all believers to the Church irrespective of class, whether they spoke the language of the Jews or foreign languages, so that they might form one body. That is all. As it is a believerís first experience (being made part of the Body) it cannot then be a second experience. (Reread chapter 9 for the incident with Samaritans in Acts 8).
3. Nothing is complicated either for speaking in tongues. It was in the signís nature to explain its purpose. The foreign languages were:
Augustineís definition, which is perfectly in line with Scripture, is therefore authoritative, "They were signs appropriate to that era. They were intended to announce the coming of the Holy Spirit on PEOPLE OF ALL TONGUES to show that the gospel was to be preached to ALL THE LANGUAGES ON EARTH. This thing came to announce something and then disappeared".
A further word to charismatic brethren of a moderate persuasion who, in good conscience, examine the foundation of the doctrine of tongues and worry about the excesses it produces. Jesus said one day, "If anyone chooses to do Godís will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God" (John 7:17). The discovery of the truth is dependent upon a right state of mind, which He refers to elsewhere as a "noble and good heart" (Luke 8:15). A right state of mind also means acknowledging God is right and we have made a mistake, no matter what it costs - the greatest price being the humbling of our natural pride. That is what I did personally. I did not lose anything in the exchange. Quite to the contrary, because the truth does not bind us, it sets us free (John 8:32).The last word is for you, my evangelical brethren. One day I went to a shoe store to buy a new pair of shoes. When the salesman saw what I had on my feet, he said something that I will never forget, "Your shoes are very tired (!) and worn out". Can the same thing be said about some church meetings? The singing is tired, the messages are tired. Certainly giving thanks still fits, but how worn out it is! Freshness and spontaneity have grown long beards. People prefer warm error (alas!) to cold truth. You cannot warm yourself very well on an iceberg, even less in a deep freezer! An old, sputtering, smoking, wood-burning stove will create a warmer and cozier atmosphere than a sophisticated furnace that is running at only a quarter of its capacity. There is no place for lukewarmness in the work of God. The Spirit was given to us so that we would have an abundant life, nothing less. Where the life of the Spirit, coupled with sound biblical teaching, is abundant and flowing with living waters, Christians are not in danger of slipping into false experiences offered as a panacea to heal all the ills of the church.
You who are under charismatic pressure from all sides and who can no longer meet charismatic people without being treated to speaking in tongues and the baptism of the Spirit at the slightest excuse, hear this: Rereading, studying and memorising points 2 and 3 of the summary will help equip you, with a knowledge of Scripture and a spiritual wisdom that, as in Stephenís case, "nobody will stand up against" (Acts 6:10).