As an introduction I refer briefly to some misconceptions about: The Origin of Classic Pentecostalism; and the difference between the Pentecostal and the Charismatic movements.
I have often been asked whether I trace my Pentecostal roots to the so called Azusa Street revival in Los Angeles, USA. I always answer “No”, basically for three reasons:
- It was at Topeka, Kansas (1900) not Azusa Street, Los Angeles (1906) that American Pentecostalism really commenced
- Unbiased scholars see the origin of the movement as being linked, at least to some degree, to the great worldwide Evangelical Awakenings of the 19th Century, predating both of the above, which are in effect two streams from the one “fountain head” from which there are a number of other streams.
- I reject Azusa Street as the root of the Pentecostalism of which I am part because I am British not American. The British movement is more directly linked to the Welsh Revival (1904- 1905), which also predates Azusa Street.
I have provided a reasonably extensive historic survey of the Pentecostal experience and movement in the book I co-authored entitled Gathering the Faithful Remnant (Part Nine) and in my series of articles entitled Cessationism v. Biblicism previously published in this journal and available on line as a series starting at http://cetf.co/sWudFf-
It is neither my desire nor my intention to repeat that information here. I do however remain open for interaction on the topic, space and time permitting.
THE CHARISMATIC MOVEMENT
When I suggested in one of my meetings in UK in 2009 that much of the so called movement of the Holy Spirit within the Charismatic Movement of the 1960-1970 period had been false, I raised the ire of a woman in the congregation who objected vociferously. She had obviously been a part of it. Here I simply direct your attention to the excellent article by Richard Bennett who was also formerly a part of the Charismatic movement and who now sees, as a former Roman Catholic priest, how it was largely a ploy by the Vatican to regain and retain their own people and to seduce evangelicals and even Pentecostals.
I really need say no more on that topic except to emphasise that the big difference between Classic Pentecostals and the more modern Charismatics is that the former relied on Scripture and emphasised biblical doctrine whereas the latter virtually jettisoned the Bible in favour of “experience”. That disparity still exists but sadly to a greater extent as many traditional or classic Pentecostals have also succumbed to the “experience” trumping “truth” scenario. In the Assemblies of God of which I felt honoured to be a participant (1959-1978) such was NOT the case. There was little room for the public endorsement of experience or teaching that was NOT founded firmly in the Scriptures. This was one of the major reasons for my raising my voice against the teaching and trends of the Assemblies of God in Australia when I was National General Secretary (1989-1992) and for my eventual exclusion. There were of course other reasons, for my withdrawal, including the blatant nepotism and cronyism among the top leaders. The outworking of that is obvious from the trends of the church in the present time with its rank worldliness, promoted by the next generation, sons of those leaders. I again direct you to my articles on AoG and Elim Living in a Fool’s Paradise and other of my related writings: http://cetf.co/pN0vUG
Speaking in tongues, Interpretation of tongues and Prophecy.
It cannot be disputed that the two most obvious distinctives of Pentecostalism are Healing and Speaking in Tongues. Both have been widespread practices within the movement from the outset and, I add as a Pentecostal, in my opinion have been subject to much abuse resulting in rightful criticism by many outside and some inside the movement, including myself. In Part 1 (see CETF # 57 pp 9-11,) we looked at the biblical teaching of Healing in the Atonement, which is vastly different from that taught by most Pentecostals, especially the extremes from e.g. Kenneth Hagin, Ken and Gloria Copeland, Benny Hinn, Creflo Dollar Jesse Duplantis et al.
We now come to the matter of tongues speaking and the related gifts of the Holy Spirit known as Interpretation of Tongues and Prophecy. Classic Pentecostals have always linked these three gifts together, for two good reasons:
- All three gifts are verbal in their function (Acts 2:4; 1 Cor. 14:2,3,5,13 etc);
- Biblically they are inter-related cf. 1 Cor. 14:5—more on that later.
In cutting to the chase and avoiding repetition of my previous articles (see above) on this topic I need to establish some parameters, examine some false notions and provide biblical support for my position.
Distinction – Difference - Danger?
Traditional or Classic Pentecostals taught that the “speaking in tongues” associated with the “Baptism into the Holy Spirit” as on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2) is different from the gift of tongues mentioned by Paul in his Corinthian epistle (cf. chapters 12 & 14). In the former the gift is the Holy Spirit Himself (cf. John 15:26; 16:7) who brings with Him the innate ability to speak in a new language. The latter is one of the nine special manifestations of the Holy Spirit given “severally as He wills” (1 Cor. 12:11 cf. verse 30) for the edification of the local body of believers. This distinction enabled the holders of the view to reconcile the anomaly of the rhetorical question “do all speak with tongues” (1 Cor. 12: 30) with the idea of what was called the doctrine of the initial evidence, which derives from a detailed examination of all the cases in the book of Acts, where followers of Christ received the Holy Spirit. “Initial Evidence” affirms that speaking in tongues is the first (Hence “initial”) outward sign that a person has been baptised into the Holy Spirit (see Matt. 3:11 cf. Acts 1:5,8; 2:4 etc).
The biblical doctrine is clearly established on a three fifths majority case basis—Acts 2; 10 and 19. In the second incident (Acts 8) the outward manifestation was obviously immediate, supernatural and different to miracles and healings, seeing Simon the sorcerer offered the apostles money for the power to transfer the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands and he didn’t make such an offer to Philip who had previously performed miracles (cf. Acts 8:5-19). That leaves Acts 9, the case of Saul of Tarsus (Paul), where speaking in tongues is not mentioned (Acts 9: 17-18). Later, however Paul rejoices that he speaks “in tongues more than you all” (1 Cor. 14:18). My point is that classic Pentecostals, including Assemblies of God, who adopted the doctrine of the initial evidence, did have biblical warrant.
However in my view there are two inherent dangers in promoting the idea of initial evidence:
Firstly, it makes fundamental what is at best an important incidental; and secondly it shifts the focus from the Holy Spirit to the sign. We need to note from the biblical record that:
- There was no expectancy to speak in tongues in any of the cases listed in the book of Acts;
- There was no prior instruction other than the command to be “filled with the Holy Spirit” or to wait for the Holy Spirit’s advent; and
- There was no back ground hype or hysteria as a build up to the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
In my view these important facts have been overlooked or ignored by Pentecostal leaders to the detriment and deception of our fellowships and people. Had they been noted and acted upon we would have been protected from those ambitious leaders who made a killing out of getting people “through into the baptism” as it was termed. False teachers and in some cases immoral men built their reputations and popularity on the practice. Also we would have largely avoided the situation where so many were told that they had been filled with or were baptised in the Holy Spirit when they weren’t. This has proved to be faith destroying.
1st Corinthians Chapter 14
It is a complete fallacy to claim that biblical teaching about the gifts of the Holy Spirit is isolated to just the Corinthian passages, which is a view that I have heard from cessationists or quasi cessationists. The point that they try to make is that seeing there are only two or three chapters in the whole Bible given over to this topic, it must be of very limited importance. They are wrong. Even a cursory reading of Bible makes it abundantly clear that the subject can be discovered in many passages through the pages of Holy writ. 1 Corinthians chapter 12 presents us not with a new topic but with the climax of something that Paul introduced near the start of his epistle and has been building up to as approaches the end. Like other of his epistles—especially Romans—Paul is developing a total argument, which he introduced in chapters 2 and 3 where he lists three types of people (things) – 2:14 “the natural (STRONG 5591 ψυχικος psuchikos = sensual or soulish) man”; 3:1 “carnal” (Strong 4559 σαρκικος sarkikos = fleshly); and 3:1 cf. 2:13, 15 “spiritual” (STRONG 4152 πνευματικος pneumatikos). In 12:1 Paul returns to consider the highest level—the SPIRITUAL. In the KJV the words “gifts” is in italics denoting that it is not in the original. Here the apostle is dealing with the PNEUMATIKOS or the PNEUMATIKON and in doing so he includes the “gifts” (STRONG 5486 χαρισμα charisma) v.4 or “manifestations (STRONG 5321 φανερωσις phanerosis = shining forth) v.7 of the Holy Spirit.
Space does not allow for a detailed treatment of chapter 14, which provides us with the major New Testament teaching on our topic, so we’ll take some key verses of the chapter and hopefully remove some of the misunderstandings and controversy.
Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries. But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men. He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification – 1 Corinthians 14:1-5 NKJV.
I have made bold phrases above as they serve to help remove some false notions regarding the three gifts of the Holy Spirit which we are considering. Briefly they may be listed as follows: (Remember what we are saying is that biblically the following assertions are false.):
- Speaking in Tongues is the least of the gifts.
- Biblical speaking in tongues is always in known (understood) human languages.
- Speaking in tongues is prayer so all interpretation should be directed to God.
- Paul condemned speaking in tongues.
- Christians are not encouraged to seek spiritual gifts.
An intelligent reading of the above passage of scripture, in the context of the entire chapter, immediately shows that these assertions are biblically false for the following reasons:
There is no scripture which says that “speaking in tongues” is the least of the gifts. What it does say is that prophecy is greater than tongues unless public speaking in tongues is accompanied by interpretation, the reason being that the church may receive edification. The obvious and only logical conclusion is that public “tongues” + “interpretation” = “prophecy”, which we are told is for “edification (i.e. to build up) and exhortation (i.e. to stir up) and comfort (i.e. to cheer up).”
One of the misleading claims that emerged during the Charismatic Renewal was, “speaking in tongues is your prayer language”. This expression was never used by Classic Pentecostals and, while there is a measure of biblical truth in the idea, the widespread usage of the phrase has led to misconceptions and misunderstandings. Private speaking in tongues is a legitimate form of prayer providing the speaking in tongues is legitimate i.e. inspired by the Holy Spirit. Public speaking in tongues may also be a prayer, but it’s not always the case and is an exception not the norm. Our passage teaches that all public expressions of the gifts, including speaking in tongues, should be to the building up on the body. Remember “tongues speaking ” + “interpretation” = “prophecy”. So the major outworking is “man ward” and not “God ward” as Charismatics affirm.
Another widespread misconception is that Holy Spirit inspired “tongues speaking ” is always in a known (understood) human language. Yet verse 2 above affirms:
For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries – 1 Corinthians 14:2 NKJV.
To affirm as some do that all biblical speaking in tongues was in a known human language you have to say that the expression “no one understands him” is an exaggeration, because someone somewhere will inevitable understand a known human language. With this topic as with all divine truth you have to face the hurdle of the word “mysteries”. We don’t know nor do we understand everything. That aside there are more human languages than most of us realise – some 1,000 I believe in India alone.
As a young man in the ministry I was concerned about what sounded like “babble” coming from a dear lady in our fellowship. I mentioned it to a pastor who was my senior by many years. He told me of a similar situation that he had faced. William Burton a veteran Pentecostal missionary, from a Brethren background, was visiting so he mentioned his concern to brother Burton, who sat by the sister one Sunday morning. After the service brother Burton said, “Brother you need have no concern about that sister. It is not babble. She was speaking in an almost extinct language that I have heard in the Belgium Congo. She was praising the Lord in terms that would only be used about one of the highest chieftains in the tribe.”
Paul the apostle wrote:
But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way – 1 Corinthians. 12:31.
Sometimes and in exceptionable circumstances speaking in tongues may rank “the best gift” as for example on the day of Pentecost when those simple, untravelled and uneducated Galileans began to speak in languages that they had never learned. Among the crowd were those who did not understand what was going on and were sceptical. Also among that crowd were those who heard and who understood the languages spoken.
Here we need to observe two important biblical issues:
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance – Acts 2:4.
Literally “they spoke what the Holy Spirit gave them to articulate”. In other words what happened was Holy Spirit inspired and in initiated. They did not formulate the words themselves. It was not 40% human and 60% divine. It was all divine. God the Holy Spirit took over completely and the great miracle of Pentecost began; may it continue.
It did on that day for the events of the Upper Room with the tongues of fire and the rushing mighty wind and the miracle of languages were not the end of the matter. These were all preliminary to the powerful Gospel preaching by Peter:
Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ. Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call." And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, "Be saved from this per verse generation." Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them – Acts 2:36-41.
The genius of God directs everything within His Kingdom towards evangelism – AMEN.