U n d e r s t a n d i ng Tongues An Amazing Fact: Legend has it that when the Greeks were unable to capture the city of Troy even after imposing a 10-year siege, they finally resorted to a clever stratagem. The Greek army pretended to sail away and left on the shore a huge, hollow wooden horse as an apparent victory gift. However, the gift was actually filled with several armed warriors! Sinon, a Greek spy inside Troy, persuaded the Trojans to bring the horse within the city walls, saying that to do so would mysteriously make Troy invincible. That night Sinon released the troops hiding in the gigantic horse. After killing the Trojan guards, they opened the gates to the waiting Greek soldiers, and Troy was captured and burned. Chapter One DifferenCes in interpretatiOnA gift from an enemy can be very deadly. The underworld has successfully dispatched
U n d e r s t a n d i ng Tongues many human targets by beautifully wrappinga bomb as a gift with an ornate bow and paperthat explodes when opened. Today the devil isusing a counterfeit gift of the Spirit—a paganform of the gift of tongues—to gain access tothe church of God and destroy it from within. Shortly after becoming a Christian, I washitchhiking from Palm Springs to Los Angelesto visit my mother. About halfway to mydestination, I caught a ride with a kind, middle-aged Pentecostal lady who was very pleasedto hear of my recent conversion. As we drovealong, she asked, “Have you received the HolyGhost yet?” I was a little surprised by her question,because no one had ever asked me that before.“Well, I think I have,” I said slowly. “I’vecertainly felt God’s Spirit in my life. The Lord ishelping me make so many changes—you know,like giving up drugs, stealing, lying, cursing,and much more.” “No, that’s not what I mean,” she said,looking a little frustrated. “Have you receivedthe baptism of the Holy Ghost? Do you speakin tongues?”
U n d e r s t a n d i ng Tongues It struck me as odd that she seemed far moreinterested in whether or not I had experiencedan ecstatic utterance than she was in the factthat I was having victory over the sins that hadlong held me captive! Even still, this kind lady was convinced thatI was missing out on a primary element of theChristian experience. And not wanting to bedeprived of something so important, I began avery deep search into the controversial subjectof tongues. The first few churches I attendedwere all charismatic, which means they believedin speaking in ecstatic tongues—an experienceoften described as “glossolalia.” Most of mynew friends at our Bible study group “spokein tongues,” so the information I am about toshare is the result of firsthand experience as wellas years of research. I need to address some unpopular factsin this study, and I must begin by saying thatalthough I disagree with some of the teachingsof my charismatic brothers and sisters, I firmlybelieve that God has thousands of His childrenin these fellowships. I also recognize that evenamong charismatics there are vast differences
U n d e r s t a n d i ng Tongues of interpretation regarding the gift of tongues,so forgive me if I generalize at times. The warI wage is not against people, but against error.The same truth that at times can hurt will alsopromise to set us free (John 8:32)! Chapter twO the Genuine Gift Of tOnGuesL et’s begin with a definition. The word “tongue” in the Bible simply means“a language.” God gives all the gifts of the Spirit to fill apractical need. What was the need for tongues? Jesus told His followers, “Go ye therefore,and teach all nations, baptizing them in thename of the Father, and of the Son, and of theHoly Ghost” (Matthew 28:19). This commandposed a problem. How could the apostles goout preaching to all the world when they spokeonly one or two languages? After all, Jesus’disciples were very bright, even though mostof them were not formally educated. In orderto fulfill the great commission, He promised togive them a unique gift from the Holy Spirit.
U n d e r s t a n d i ng TonguesIt was a miraculous, supernatural ability tospeak foreign languages they had not formerlystudied or known for the purpose of spreadingthe Gospel. “And these signs shall follow them thatbelieve; … they shall speak with new tongues”(Mark 16:17). The fact that Jesus said these new tongues,or languages, would be a “sign” indicates thatthe ability to speak them would not come asthe result of normal linguistic study. Rather,it would be an instantaneous gift to fluentlypreach in a previously unfamiliar language. There are only three actual examples ofspeaking in tongues recorded in the Bible (Actschapters 2, 10, and 19). If we look at these threecases, we should find a clearer picture of thiscontroversial gift. “When the day of Pentecost was fully come,they were all with one accord in one place. Andsuddenly there came a sound from heaven as ofa rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the housewhere they were sitting. And there appeared untothem cloven [divided] tongues like as of fire, andit sat upon each of them. And they were all filled
U n d e r s t a n d i ng Tongues with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak withother tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance(Acts 2:1–4). Fire is a symbol for power. God sent thisgift in the form of tongues of fire so they wouldknow that He would empower their feebletongues in the same way He strengthenedMoses to go before Pharaoh (Exodus 4:10–12)and touched Isaiah’s lips with a coal from theheavenly altar (Isaiah 6:6, 7). Why did the Lord wait until Pentecost tobestow this gift? Acts 2:5–11 sets the scene: “Andthere were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devoutmen, out of every nation under heaven. Nowwhen this was noised abroad, the multitude cametogether, and were confounded, because that everyman heard them speak in his own language. Andthey were all amazed and marvelled, saying oneto another, Behold, are not all these which speakGalilaeans? And how hear we every man in ourown tongue, wherein we were born? … We do hearthem speak in our tongues the wonderful worksof God.” The day of Pentecost was a Jewish holyday that fell 50 days after Passover. Devoted
U n d e r s t a n d i ng TonguesIsraelites would come from all over the Romanempire to worship in Jerusalem. God chosethis timely opportunity to bestow this giftof tongues upon the disciples so they couldpreach to the visiting Jews in their nativelanguages. At least 15 different languagegroups were represented in the crowd that day(Acts 2:9–11)! As a result, thousands of thesevisitors were converted. Then, after Pentecost,they in turn carried their new faith home totheir respective countries. From this example, it should be veryclear that the gift of tongues was given tocommunicate the gospel in different existinglanguages of the world. Some have mistakenly suggested that themiracle on Pentecost was a gift to hear andunderstand different languages. It was not a giftof hearing given to the listeners, but rather agift of the Spirit given to enable the believers tospeak (Acts 2:4). It is not called the gift of earsfor the listeners, but the gift of tongues for thespeakers. Furthermore, the sign was not ears offire on the listeners, but tongues of fire on theones preaching.
U n d e r s t a n d i ng Tongues It is also sometimes suggested that thegift of tongues is a “heavenly language”understood only by God or those with the gift ofinterpretation. The Bible is clear in Acts chapter2 that both the disciples and those listeningunderstood what was being preached—“thewonderful works of God” (verse 11). Let’s look now at the second example whenPeter preached to Cornelius and his household:“While Peter yet spake these words, the HolyGhost fell on all them which heard the word.And they of the circumcision which believedwere astonished, as many as came with Peter,because that on the Gentiles also was pouredout the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heardthem speak with tongues, and magnify God”(Acts 10:44–46). Acts 10:1 tells us that Cornelius was Italian,while Peter was a Jew and spoke Aramaic. Historyalso tells us that the servants in a Roman homecould be from anywhere in the world. Becausethere were obvious language barriers at thismeeting, Peter likely began to preach through aninterpreter. But when the Holy Ghost fell uponCornelius and his household, the Jews with
10 U n d e r s t a n d i ng TonguesPeter could understand the Gentiles speakingin languages other than their native tongues.The record is that the Jews heard them “magnifyGod” in these languages. When later reportingthis experience to the church leaders, Peter said,“The Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at thebeginning” (Acts 11:15, emphasis added). Peter here plainly tells us that Corneliusand his family received the same gift of tonguesin the same way the disciples did on the day ofPentecost. In other words, they spoke languagesthey had not formerly known in a way thatcould be understood. The third and final example of speaking intongues is when Paul preached to 12 Ephesiandisciples. Acts 19:6 records, “And when Paulhad laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghostcame on them; and they spake with tongues,and prophesied.” Paul was the most educated and widelytraveled of the apostles, and he spoke manylanguages (1 Corinthians 14:18). When theHoly Spirit came upon these 12 Ephesian men,Paul recognized that they were prophesying, orpreaching, in new languages. Most likely, they
U n d e r s t a n d i ng Tongues 11spoke in languages common throughout theRoman Empire, since that would be practicalfor spreading the Gospel. Luke does not saythat they received a form of tongues differentfrom the first two examples, so we mustassume that it was the same type of gift givenat Pentecost. You’ll find that the only times the gift oftongues was associated with the outpouring ofthe Holy Spirit is when people from more thanone language group were gathered together,thus creating communication barriers. Notice that in Acts chapter 4 you have arepeat of the experience described in chapter 2.The place was shaken and they were filled withthe Holy Spirit, but because there were noforeigners present, the gift of tongues wasabsent. Acts 4:31 says, “And when they hadprayed, the place was shaken where they wereassembled together; and they were all filled withthe Holy Ghost, and they spake the word ofGod with boldness.” The purpose for the baptism of the HolySpirit is not to mutter or babble unintelligiblesounds, but rather to have power for preaching.
1 U n d e r s t a n d i ng TonguesThis is why Jesus said, “But ye shall receivepower, after that the Holy Ghost is come uponyou: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both inJerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, andunto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Chapter three the MessaGe tO COrinthO f the 14 New Testament books written by Paul, 1 Corinthians is the only one inwhich he deals with the subject of tongues. TheCorinthian church obviously had a specific,temporary problem because Paul’s second letterto Corinth never even mentions tongues. The ancient city of Corinth was famousfor its two international seaports. Becausethe Corinthian church was a melting pot ofmany different nationalities, its services oftenbecame chaotic and confusing. Evidentlysome of the members would pray, testify, orpreach in languages unknown to the otherspresent. This is why Paul commanded thatif they spoke in a tongue unknown to themajority, they should remain silent unless there
U n d e r s t a n d i ng Tongues 1was someone there to interpret or translate(1 Corinthians 14:28). In other words, it’s notpolite to speak in a language that your audiencecannot understand. Listen to these plainstatements from the apostle: “Now, brethren,if I come unto you speaking with tongues,what shall I profit you, except I shall speakto you either by revelation, or by knowledge,or by prophesying, or by doctrine? And eventhings without life giving sound, whether pipeor harp, except they give a distinction in thesounds, how shall it be known what is piped orharped? For if the trumpet give an uncertainsound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tonguewords easy to be understood, how shall it beknown what is spoken? for ye shall speak intothe air. … Yet in the church I had rather speakfive words with my understanding, that bymy voice I might teach others also, than tenthousand words in an unknown tongue. … Ifany man speak in an unknown tongue, let itbe by two, or at the most by three, and that bycourse; and let one interpret. But if there be nointerpreter, let him keep silence in the church;
1 U n d e r s t a n d i ng Tonguesand let him speak to himself, and to God”(1 Corinthians 14:6–9, 19, 27, 28). It is truly amazing that some people takethis passage and use it as an excuse to babbleduring services! The consistent message ofPaul throughout Scripture is the very opposite.In 1 Timothy 6:20, he specifically mentions“avoiding profane and vain babblings.” Andin 2 Timothy 2:16, Paul repeats that counsel:“But shun profane and vain babblings: for theywill increase unto more ungodliness.” In otherwords, the very purpose for the gift of speech isto communicate your thoughts. If those presentdo not understand your communication, thenkeep silent. Chapter fOur heavenly prayer lanGuaGe ?M any of my charismatic friends would agree that the tongues spoken in the bookof Acts were normal languages of the world. Butthey quickly add that there is a second gift—aheavenly prayer language. This gift, they say, isto express the Spirit’s “groanings which cannot
U n d e r s t a n d i ng Tongues 1be uttered” (Romans 8:26). The purpose, theysay, is so the devil cannot understand ourprayers. But nowhere are we taught to hide ourprayers from the devil. He trembles when hehears Christians pray! This doctrine of a prayer language is basedmainly upon 1 Corinthians 14:14, where Paulsays, “For if I pray in an unknown tongue,my spirit prayeth, but my understandingis unfruitful.” They interpret this to mean that whenPaul prayed in the Spirit, he used a “heavenlytongue” and did not himself know what hewas praying. This theory raises an importantquestion. How would the supplicant ever knowif his prayer was answered? So what is it that Paul is really sayinghere in 1 Corinthians 14:14? The problem inunderstanding this verse comes largely fromthe cumbersome translation. Please allow meto rephrase the verse in modern English: “IfI pray in a language those around me do notknow, I might be praying with the Spirit, butmy thoughts would be unfruitful for thoselistening.” Paul is adamant that if we pray out
1 U n d e r s t a n d i ng Tonguesloud, we should either pray so others around uscan understand or else keep quiet! Notice thenext few verses: “What is it then? I will pray withthe spirit, and I will pray with the understandingalso: I will sing with the spirit, and I will singwith the understanding also. Else when thoushalt bless with the spirit, how shall he thatoccupieth the room of the unlearned say Amenat thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandethnot what thou sayest” (1 Corinthians 14:15, 16)?According to this text, who has the problemwith understanding? It is the listener and not thespeaker as is commonly taught. If you have everprayed with someone who is offering a prayerin a language unknown to you, then you knowwhat Paul meant when he said it is difficult foryou to say “Amen” (meaning “so be it”) at theend of the prayer. Without an interpreter, youhave no idea to what you are assenting. You mayhave just asked a blessing on the devil as far asyou can tell! It is very obvious from the context of1 Corinthians 14 that the purpose of speaking intongues, or foreign languages, is to communicatethe gospel and thereby edify the church. If
U n d e r s t a n d i ng Tongues 1the listeners do not understand the spokenlanguage they cannot be edified. Consequently,if there is no interpreter, the speaker is simplyspeaking into the air and the only ones presentwho know what is being said are God andhimself. This is the clear meaning of the often-misquoted verse 2. “For he that speaketh inan unknown tongue speaketh not unto men,but unto God: for no man understandeth him;howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.” Paul emphasizes again that the languagesspoken need to be understood by the hearers orelse the one who wants to share the mysteriesof the gospel needs to sit quietly in meditationbetween himself and God. “So likewise ye;except ye utter by tongue words easy to beunderstood, how shall it be known what isspoken? for ye shall speak into the air.” “But ifthere be no interpreter, let him keep silence inthe church; and let him speak to himself, and toGod” (verses 9, 28). Clearly, the entire purposeof tongues is to cross language barriers andcommunicate the gospel! Some have asked, “Didn’t Paul say he spokewith the tongues of angels?”
1 U n d e r s t a n d i ng Tongues No. Paul said, “Though I speak withthe tongues of men and of angels …”(1 Corinthians 13:1, emphasis added). If youread this verse in its context, you will see thatthe word “though” means “even if.” For example,Paul also said in verse 2, “Though I have all faith…” He did not have all faith. And verse 3 adds,“Though I give my body to be burned …” Paulwas beheaded, not burned. So we can see thatPaul here used the word “though” to mean“even if.’’ Chapter five riGht p riOritiesI believe that all the gifts of the Spirit, including the true gift of tongues, areneeded and available to the church today.But the Scriptures teach that some of thegifts are more important than others andthat we should focus on the most importantones. “But covet earnestly the best gifts”(1 Corinthians 12:31). In fact, when the Bible lists spiritual gifts,tongues is usually found at the bottom of the
U n d e r s t a n d i ng Tongues 1list. “And God hath set some in the church,first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdlyteachers, after that miracles, then gifts ofhealings, helps, governments, diversities oftongues” (1 Corinthians 12:28). “Greater is hethat prophesieth than he that speaketh withtongues” (1 Corinthians 14:5). Yet some charismatic preachers haveturned the list upside down and made thegift of tongues the primary emphasis of theirpreaching. They would have us think that aChristian who does not speak in tongues is asecond-class citizen. But Paul makes it clear thatdifferent gifts are given to different people, andno one is expected to have all the gifts. He asksin 1 Corinthians 12:29, 30: “Are all apostles?are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workersof miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? doall speak with tongues? do all interpret?” Theanswer is obviously NO! The Bible says, “The fruit of the Spiritis love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness,goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance”(Galatians 5:22, 23). But these same preacherswould have us believe that the fruit of the Spirit
0 U n d e r s t a n d i ng Tonguesis tongues or that every person who is filledwith the Holy Spirit will speak in tongues.Yet out of more than 50 examples in the Biblewhere God filled His people with the Spirit,only three times is tongues connected withthe experience. Furthermore, Jesus is our example. He wasfilled with the Holy Spirit, yet He never spokein tongues. John the Baptist was “filled with theHoly Ghost, even from his mother’s womb”(Luke 1:15), but there is no record that he spokein tongues, either. Of the 27 books in the New Testament,only three make any reference at all to the giftof tongues. There are about 39 Bible authors.Of the 39, only three—Luke, Paul, and Mark—mention the subject of tongues. In other words,we should put the emphasis where God putsthe emphasis. Chapter six Creative COunterfeitT he genuine gift of tongues is a powerful tool for the proclamation of the gospel. But
U n d e r s t a n d i ng Tongues 1remember, the devil has a counterfeit for everytruth of God. Glossolalia (glô´se-lâ’lê-a) is the word oftenused to describe the popular experience foundin most charismatic churches. It is defined inthe American Heritage Dictionary as: “fabricatedand non-meaningful speech, especially suchspeech associated with a trance state or certainschizophrenic syndromes.” Contrast that with the same dictionary’sdefinition for a language: “The use byhuman beings of voice sounds, and oftenwritten symbols representing these sounds,in organized combinations and patternsin order to express and communicatethoughts and feelings.” By any definition,the disjointed sounds of glossolalia are nota language. Believe me, I have seen this practice manytimes. In one charismatic church I used toattend, the pastor and his wife were a “tonguesteam.” Every week in the middle of the pastor’ssermon, his wife would jump to her feet, throwher arms in the air, and break out in ecstaticutterance. But she always said the same thing.
U n d e r s t a n d i ng Tongues“Handa kala shami, handa kala shami, handakala shami …” Over and over again. Thisinstantly seemed suspicious to me because Jesussaid, “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions,as the heathen do” (Matthew 6:7). Each time this happened, the woman’shusband would stop preaching and provide adubious English translation for her so-calledmessage. Usually it began with “Thus saith theLord.” Yet in spite of the fact that she alwaysrepeated the words “handa kala shami,” thepastor’s vague interpretation was different eachtime—and sometimes three times longer thanthe utterance. I used to wonder why, if this wasa message from God, wouldn’t He give it to usin English the first time. Chapter seven BaptizeD paGanisMM y exposure to this charismatic “tongues team” reminded me of some thingsI had read in my history books growingup. This modern manifestation of tonguesfinds its roots not in the Bible, but rather
U n d e r s t a n d i ng Tongues in ancient pagan spiritualistic rituals. In thesixth century b.c., the Oracle of Delphi washoused in a temple built near the foot of Mt.Parnassus. Delphi was also sacred to Dionysus,the god associated with wine, fertility, andsensual dance, and to the nine Muses, patrongoddesses of music. While exhilarating music was played, Pythia,the chief priestess, would breathe intoxicatingvapors, go into a frenzied trance, and thenbegin jabbering. The weird sounds the priestessmuttered were then interpreted by a priest,who usually spoke in verse. Her utteranceswere regarded as the words of Apollo, but themessages were so ambiguous that they couldseldom be proven wrong. 1 While living with the Native Americansin New Mexico, I witnessed a similar ritualseveral times. The Indians would eat thehallucinogenic peyote, then sit in a circle andchant and pound drums for hours. Before long,several were spasmodically muttering as theyexperienced their tormenting visions. Todaythe charismatic churches are by far the mostpopular among the Native Americans because
U n d e r s t a n d i ng Tonguesit is such an easy and natural transition fromtheir old religions. Among many heathen African tribes, inorder to invoke the blessing of their gods,the people would sacrifice a chicken or goatand then dance around a fire for long hours,chanting songs to the hypnotic rhythm of apounding drum. Eventually some of the peoplewould become possessed by their gods andbegin speaking the eerie languages of the spiritworld. Then the local witch doctor or priestwould translate the messages. This ritual is stillpracticed today among the Voodoo Catholics inthe West Indies. This pagan practice first found its way intothe North American Christian churches in theearly 1800s. Many of the African slaves whowere brought to America and forced to acceptChristianity were unable to read the Bible forthemselves. Even though they came from avariety of tribes in Africa, one practice mosttribes held in common was the “Spirit Dances”with the “spirit-possessed” person muttering. The slaves mistakenly associated this withthe Christian “gift of tongues” and began
U n d e r s t a n d i ng Tongues to incorporate a modified version into theirmeetings. These frantic services, which wereaccompanied by heavy rhythmic music, beganto spread at first only in the South and theparticipants were mocked by the mainlinedenominations as “Holy Rollers.” Some evenwent so far as to grab venomous serpentsduring their possessed trances as a means ofproving that they had the “spirit.” (This was amisuse of Mark 16:18, which says, “They shalltake up serpents,” in reference to the time Paulwas accidentally bitten by a serpent but wasunharmed by the venom. See Acts 28:3–6.) Forpeople to hunt down and pick up deadly snakesin order to prove that they have the Holy Spiritis, in reality, tempting God! The national expansion of the Pentecostalmovement among Caucasians began inLos Angeles at the Apostolic Faith GospelMission on Azusa Street in 1906. The leaderwas a black former holiness preacher namedWilliam Seymour. From there, leaderscontinued to refine the doctrines and makethem more attractive and palatable to othermainline Christians.
U n d e r s t a n d i ng Tongues “Then in about 1960 the charismaticmovement began attracting followers withintraditional denominations. From then itcontinued to have explosive growth untilnow there are several million charismatics inProtestant and Catholic churches throughoutthe world.” 2 It is important to note the prominent rolemusic plays in all the pagan religions thatpractice glossolalia. This counterfeit gift oftongues first found its foothold in mainlinechurches through “baptized” pagan musicand worship styles. The dominant, repetitiousrhythms and syncopated beat disarm the higherreasoning powers and put the subconsciousmind in a hypnotic state. In this vulnerablecondition, the spirit of ecstatic utterance findseasy access. Now the devil is using this counterfeit gift oftongues, like a Trojan horse, to introduce paganworship styles into Christian churches with afrightening degree of success. Satan wants toshift the attention of Christians from faith tofeeling. Some of these charismatic churches goso far as to say that the Bible is the old letter,
U n d e r s t a n d i ng Tongues and that messages which come through tonguesare fresh revelations of the Spirit and thereforemore dependable. So now the stage is set for Satan’s finalperformance! Chapter eiGht hOw GOD’s spirit a ffeCts usT he concept that a person who is “slain in the spirit” should fall to the ground andwallow and mutter is an insult to the HolyGhost. The reason God gives us His Spirit is torestore in us His image—not to rob us of alldignity and self control! On Mount Carmel, the pagan prophetsof Baal jumped on the altar and shouted andmoaned. They prophesied and cut themselves.By contrast, Elijah quietly knelt and prayed asimple prayer (1 Kings 18:17–46). “For God is not the author of confusion”(1 Corinthians 14:33). If God is not responsible,then who is? The idea that we lose control when wereceive the Spirit is not consistent with Scripture.
U n d e r s t a n d i ng Tongues“The spirits of the prophets are subject to theprophets” (1 Corinthians 14:32). Here’s another case in point. After Jesussaved a berserk, demon-possessed man by thesea, the healed man was seen “sitting at thefeet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind”(Luke 8:35). The invitation of God is “Comenow, and let us reason together, saith the Lord”(Isaiah 1:18). He wants us to use our heads. Some of you reading this study are no doubtthinking: “How dare you say these things? Ihave spoken in tongues for years and know it isfrom God!” As Christians, we should never baseour conclusions on how we feel. After all, thedevil can certainly make us feel good. Rather,we must base our beliefs upon the sure Wordof God. A friend of mine was an active charismaticwho often spoke in tongues. When he studiedthese things, he began to question if this “gift”was from the right spirit. So he sincerely prayedand said, “Lord, if this is not Your will and if Iam not experiencing the true gift of tongues,then please take it away!” He told me that fromthat day on, the experience of glossolalia never
U n d e r s t a n d i ng Tongues returned. A true Christian should be willing tosurrender every cherished view and practice onthe altar of God’s will and forsake any practicethat may be questionable—no matter howpopular, accepted, or beloved among otherChristians. There are some things that are highlyesteemed among men but are an abominationin the sight of God (Luke 16:15). Chapter nine BaBBlinG in B aBylOnW hy is understanding the subject of tongues so essential for us today? I believe themodern charismatic movement was foretold inBible prophecy. Revelation chapter 18 tells us: “And he criedmightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylonthe great is fallen, is fallen. … And I heardanother voice from heaven, saying, Come outof her, my people, that ye be not partakers ofher sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues”(verses 2, 4). We must remember that one of theprincipal characteristics of ancient Babylon at
0 U n d e r s t a n d i ng Tonguesthe tower of Babel was a confusion of tongues(Genesis 11:7–9). Revelation is telling us thatin the last days, God’s people are to be calledout of Babylon and its confusing counterfeitreligious systems. “And I saw three unclean spirits like frogscome out of the mouth of the dragon, and out ofthe mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth ofthe false prophet” (Revelation 16:13). The phrase“out of the mouth” represents speech, and pleasedon’t miss the fact that a frog’s main weaponis its tongue. Unclean tongues? Perhaps God istrying to tell us something. Remember that theconfusion of tongues at Babel was not a blessingof the Spirit, but rather a curse for their rebellion.In fact, we get our modern word “babbling” fromthe story of ancient Babel. At Pentecost, the curseof Babel was reversed so others might understandthe gospel. Chapter ten Given tO the OBeDientI have met people who told me they’ve had the baptism of the Holy Spirit because they
U n d e r s t a n d i ng Tongues 1spoke in tongues; yet they held a cigarette in onehand and a can of beer in the other. Now let’sget something straight. There are some basicrequirements for receiving this most preciousgift of the Holy Spirit. Jesus says, “If ye love me, keep mycommandments. And I will pray the Father,and he shall give you another Comforter, thathe may abide with you for ever; Even the Spiritof truth” (John 14:15–17). “And we are his witnesses of these things;and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom Godhath given to them that obey him” (Acts 5:32,emphasis added). A few years ago several famous TVevangelists fell by the way. They all claimed tobe filled with the Holy Spirit and have the gift oftongues. But they were living in gross immoraldisobedience. They would speak in tongues onTV, then leave the studio to live a compromisinglife. Something just wasn’t right. These menalso caused me to wonder, “If this is the genuinegift of tongues, then why do these charismaticevangelists need an army of interpreters totranslate for them when they preach overseas?”
U n d e r s t a n d i ng Tongues Why does God give the Spirit? “But ye shallreceive power, after that the Holy Ghost is comeupon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me”(Acts 1:8). God does not give us the Spirit tobabble, but as power for witnessing! How can we receive the genuine gift of theHoly Spirit? Totally submit to God, be willing toforgive others, obey Him, and ask. Luke 11:13says, “If ye then, being evil, know how to givegood gifts unto your children: how much moreshall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spiritto them that ask him?” 1 The Concise Columbia Encyclopedia and Compton’s Interactive Encyclopedia, under the entry “Delphi.” 2 Compton’s Interactive Encyclopedia, under the entry “Pentecostals.”
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