Tongues Today - #1
It seems that every generation is fascinated by the phenomenon of tongue-speaking. And not only is every generation fascinated by this thing called tongue-speaking, we wonder if we can do it today? I remember back in the early eighties, I was at Oklahoma Christian University and there were small prayer groups going on on campus and there was one group that had been meeting for a couple of months and they thought they could speak in tongues all of a sudden. That was kind of upsetting to the administration and required some serious Bible study on that score. I tell you that story only because this comes up in every generation, there's nothing new under the sun.
There are a lot of religious groups today that claim this ability. Even in the Churches of Christ, we have people wondering if it's possible to speak in tongues today. The idea of modern tongue-speaking only began in the 20th century. If you study church history from the first century to the 19th century you will not find any mention of any church or people claiming to be able to speak in tongues after the first century, it doesn't appear; only in the 20th century have we revived this thing called speaking in tongues.
Since there is a great interest in this and obviously a biblical doctrine, I thought it would be good to teach on this particular subject. We're going to start with the history of the tongue-speaking movement, the Pentecostal movement. And during the second part of these lessons I will concentrate on, what does the Bible actually teach concerning speaking in tongues, so we can discern, we can know what the Bible says.
Well, we have to go all the way back to John Calvin in the 16th century, believe it or not, because the seeds were sown way back then for what is happening today in the 20th century. The seed-idea came from Calvin. He didn't teach anything about speaking in tongues, by the way, but the idea that permits people to think that they can today started with him.
Presbyterian churches were an outgrowth of his teaching. He believed that since man was a sinner and it was impossible for man to obey the gospel without the direct intervention of the Holy Spirit- meaning, you couldn't even understand the gospel unless the Holy Spirit empowered you to do so- it was impossible for you to obey the gospel unless God intervened in a very special way to allow you to do it. That's what John Calvin taught: The ability to believe was the grace of God.
Now, I don't agree with this, but Calvin said, people in whom the Holy Spirit worked were called the elect because God chose them. And His choosing of them was called predestination. In other words, God, in the beginning of time, chose certain people who would be saved and certain people who would be lost. And once that choice was made, it was irrevocable, there was no going back.
Several religious ideas come from Calvin's original doctrine, for example, "accepting Jesus as your personal savior." Have you ever heard anyone say, "Accept Jesus as your personal savior and you'll be saved." Well, the seed-idea for that comes from Calvin. After all, if God chose you in advance, all you have to do is accept His choice of you. If you accept Jesus, you accept the idea that God has already chosen you. That's where that saying comes from. If you look through the whole Bible, you'll never find "accept Jesus as your personal savior." That's a man-made invention, that term "accept Jesus as your personal savior." And that term comes all the way from Calvin, back in the 16th century.
Another thing that comes out of Calvin's ideas is "baptism is only a symbol." In other words, if God chooses you in advance, you are saved from birth because of God's choice, and baptism is merely a symbol publicly demonstrating your salvation. That's all it is. You don't need to be baptized, it's not essential for salvation, because God's already chosen you. But since the Bible says you've got to be baptized, well, you're baptized to show, to demonstrate, what has already taken place. Those ideas come from Calvin.
A third idea that comes from Calvin, "once saved, always saved." If your salvation depends on God's choice, you can't be lost. If He chose you from the beginning, there's nothing you can do to be lost. And if you fall away or if you become unfaithful, well, that's just a sign that you were never chosen to begin with. You're just a fake convert.
The next person to come along is a man called John Wesley, and you're probably more familiar with the Methodist church. John Wesley was not necessarily the founder, but his ideas grew and the Methodist church was formed around these ideas in the 18th century. John Wesley introduced the concept of "emotionalism in religion." He placed a great emphasis on a conscious religious experience. And when he preached it was said that a lot of people moaned and groaned and cried out and got excited. He believed that this was the work of the Holy Spirit. In other words, when he was preaching and people were rolling around on the floor and moving their hands around, he taught that this was the Holy Spirit working inside their lives. And so the work of the Holy Spirit was seen by this emotionalism.
What Wesley did is he tied the idea of the selection of God, of the elect, to an objective, emotional reaction. See with Calvin, God chose you from the beginning of time, but how did you know He chose you? Well, Wesley said you knew because you had this feeling, this emotion, this excitement, that's how you knew. And so that's how the idea of emotionalism began to be incorporated in the Christian religion.
Charles F. Parham
The next gentleman to look at is less well-known, his name was Charles F. Parham. He lived in the late 19th, early 20th century. In 1899, a group of ministers and layman gathered to fast and pray, a prayer group. And they claimed that they received – and here's where the confusion comes in, that's why you've got to follow me here. These people claimed that they received the baptism of the Holy spirit. What they meant was the baptism with the Holy spirit, but they gave it the wrong name. They claimed that they started speaking in jibberish and they claimed that this was the gift of the Holy Spirit. And they claimed that they could now speak in tongues.
Well, in 1905, Parham established the Houston Bible school. And he began teaching and training people concerning tongue-speaking, this thing he called baptism of the Holy Spirit, which really was supposed to be baptism with the Holy spirit, which they didn't really have anyways – then they called it the wrong name, it got really confusing.
In 1906 one of the graduates, a man called J. Seymour began meetings in Los Angeles, which lasted for three years. And during these meetings, a lot of other preachers from different denominations, Baptists and Methodist, were trained in this doctrine of speaking in tongues, this baptism of the Holy Spirit, which was manifested by speaking in tongues. Even today, Pentecostal ministers are trained to do this.
These people who were graduates of the Houston Bible school and who had attended these training meetings went everywhere establishing Pentecostal churches, what we call Pentecostal churches. During those times, mainly in the South, in the poor regions, and mainly in black churches- Assemblies of God, Churches of God, United Pentecostal churches, Nazarene Holiness, all of these groups, started at this time.
A key event took place in 1950 and 1960, during these two decades. Up until 1950 this was mostly a rural, poor south phenomenon, but in the fifties and sixties, a thing called the Full Gospel Businessmen's Fellowship was begun by a man that we know as Oral Roberts. He came out of this original movement in the South, but he did something very, very special. He spread the movement on television. He added the old tent-revival atmosphere. He added to this faith-healing. He mixed the package together and he had the greatest single impact in American religion in the first half of the 20th century.
Then in the sixties, Catholics got on the bandwagon, and they called this phenomenon The Charismatic Movement, from the Greek word charisse, which means gift, and legitimized this idea even among the Catholics. Today, aside from those churches which call themselves Pentecostal, the teaching concerning the baptism of the Holy Spirit expressed as speaking in tongues is found in almost every Protestant denomination.
How the Religious World Developed the Idea of Present-Day Speaking in Tongues: Four Steps
Let me give you a summary of a doctrine. A doctrine does not appear overnight- a false doctrine, an incorrect doctrine – it is the result of several teachings that over time tend to melt together and create a new idea. So let me summarize for you the four steps that it took to get the religious world to the point where they believe that speaking in tongues is possible today:
1. God's Elect
The first step of course began in the middle ages with Calvin and Wesley, the idea that God selects from the beginning, those who are going to be saved, and those are going to be lost. That's the key idea that starts this.
2. Selection Through the Holy Spirit
And then add the idea that He makes His selection through the Holy Spirit.
3. Confirmation Through Speaking in Tongues
Then to these two ideas, add the idea that the choice of the Holy Spirit is confirmed because the elected person can now speak in tongues. And somewhere around the 18th, 19th century, that's where the Evangelical and Pentecostal split took place. The evangelicals said, "The way you know you have the Holy Spirit is that you do good acts and so on and so forth." And the Pentecostal said, "No, the way you know you have the Holy Spirit is because you can start speaking in tongues." And then the signs that accompany this baptism of the Holy Spirit are either tongue-speaking or purity of life or a tremendous amount of love.
Now, this doctrine here, the baptism of the Holy Spirit expressed as speaking in tongues, is the reason why in the evangelical and Pentecostal worlds, they will not baptize people who have not spoken in tongues or who have not given up all worldly habits or who have not made a drastic change in their life. Have you ever noticed that in evangelical churches, many times, they wait for someone to be baptized? It's kind of a wait and see. Some people even have a committee in churches. There's a committee and if you want to be baptized they want to examine your life- give up smoking, stop drinking, stop doing this and that. They want to examine your life. They want to make sure that you show the signs of a person who has been chosen, because baptism is just a symbol that God has chosen you. So they wait. That's why that happens.
Another thing that has taken place because of this doctrine, these groups say that baptism is just a symbol. It's just the proof that you are saved. It confirms your election. It is not an obedience of faith. That's where we differ. Campbell and Stone, the forefathers of the Restoration Movement, out of which the churches of Christ come, they rebelled against this teaching. I wish we knew our history. They rebelled against this teaching in no uncertain terms. And they paid a heavy price for rebelling against this teaching. This teaching swept through Europe and the United States during the 16th, 17th, and 18th century.
These men, Stone and Campbell and all the other Restoration fathers, they call them, they were preachers. They were men who really knew the Bible. And they stood up and said, "No! That's wrong. Salvation is for everybody. Anybody can come to God through obedience of faith and be saved. God, doesn't choose some to be lost and some to be saved. He invites everyone to come and be saved. All those who believe and repent and are baptized, they can be saved." That was their message. And boy did that strike a chord. That's why the churches of Christ became such a fast growing religious body in the United States, because of the message: Everyone could come to Christ. There was no choosing.
And then because of this doctrine, this is why most Pentecostal churches and charismatic churches, the whole focus of teaching and worship and fellowship and security in Christ is all based on speaking in tongues. It's all about speaking in tongues. It's all about getting you to speak in tongues, and to keep speaking in tongues, and figuring out who can speak in tongues because that's the sign that you're actually saved. That's why they focus on this stuff.
The Psychology of Speaking in Tongues
Now, how about a little modern day research? Social scientists have been interested in this phenomena over the last 50, 60 years, not preachers- scientists, social scientists. And they have studied these people who claim to be able to speak in tongues. One person, Dr. J.P. Kildahl, in his book, "The Psychology of Speaking in Tongues," noted the following observations after listening and recording tongue-speakers for 10 years, he followed them around for 10 years. He visited all types of churches where people spoke in tongues and claimed to have this miracle. And these are his observations after an exhaustive ten-year study:
- Not all of them speak in tongues – in other words, not everybody in the church can speak in tongues. Some people just don't get it.
- There is a dominant leadership that is required – in other words, tongue-speaking is dependent and submissive to a strong authority, who introduces the individual to speaking. Somebody provides the pattern, the lead.
- There is an ease of hypnotizability – all persons interviewed demonstrated this trait of character he found; a person who easily follows suggested commands.
- He found recent crisis – 85% of the people experienced an anxiety crisis just before beginning to speak in tongues.
Well, of course, for a lot of these people, the need or the desire to speak in tongues was the crisis itself. You're sitting there with 300 people, everybody's speaking in tongues and they figure they're all saved because they're speaking in tongues and you're not speaking in tongues. Of course you're going to have an anxiety crisis.
- Instability – for most people speaking in tongues brought them happiness and a feeling of stability. The center of their lives was the ability to speak in tongues.
- Low self-esteem – a lot of them indicated feelings of low self-esteem and unworthiness before being able to speak in tongues.
- Intolerance – those who could were intolerant of those who couldn't. It was a status thing.
- Obsessiveness – those who spoke in tongues were preoccupied with this particular thing. It became the center of their religious experience. They wanted others to share this.
He also talked about methods that were used to get people to speak in tongues. And he said, this is the usual scene that most people describe when they began speaking in tongues, according to his research over 10 years:
- There would be a meeting devoted to intense concentration and tongue-speaking. That's what it was about.
- An atmosphere of great suggestibility was present by a strong leader.
- The initiate is led to copy the sounds that he has heard others make.
His conclusions were that the ability to speak in tongues used the same methodology as hypnosis: group pressure and suggestion. And secondly, it is a learned phenomena. They learn how to do it. They're taught how to do it, using this type of method. And again, this isn't Bible here. This is just the researcher who studied people who claimed to have this gift.
Let's talk about the dangers here for a second. Some people say, "Well, what's the problem here? What's the harm? Why can't we just live and let live? Why are we meddling in other people's business?" Well, we don't go meddle in other people's business until that business shows up in our church. See, that's the problem. I don't mind that business out there. I just don't want that business being in here. That's not our business. So we need to understand there are some dangers because of this phenomenon, because of this thing, this false teaching, this false understanding. There are dangers.
Belief in Modern-Day Speaking in Tongues: Dangers
1. Rejecting Bible teaching
First of all, it causes one to reject Bible teaching. If you accept this, then you're rejecting other things that the Bible teaches. Do you remember when I was talking about baptism of the Holy Spirit, baptism with the Holy spirit? That's a very important difference. Baptism with the Holy Spirit was for the apostles, Acts 1:8, Jesus says to the apostles that they will be baptized with the Holy spirit.
"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth."
- Acts 1:8
The baptism with the Holy Spirit was the baptism that enabled the apostles to speak in tongues, to do miracles, to heal, to do all those things. That was the baptism with the Holy Spirit. And that was just for the apostles, no one else.
The baptism of the Holy Spirit is water baptism. Let me give you a parallel here: The car of Michael. Whose car is it? Michael's car, right? The car of Michael, the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Who's baptism is it? It's the baptism of the Holy Spirit. It belongs to the Holy Spirit.
Well, what baptism is the baptism of the Holy Spirit? Well, it's the baptism He commands. In Acts 2:38 Peter, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, commands the people to be baptized in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins. That's the baptism of the Holy spirit.
Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
- Acts 2:38
When you go into the water and confess Christ, and you are immersed in that water and your sins are forgiven, you have just received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the baptism that the Holy Spirit commands you to have, you do it, that's it.
It also causes you to reject the Bible teaching that this gift would end, First Corinthians 13:8-10. Paul says that tongues will cease.
8Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part; 10but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.
- I Corinthians 13:8-10
2. Placing Power of Salvation in the Wrong Thing
It causes you also to place the power of salvation in signs and wonders and not in the gospel. Paul says,
The gospel is the power of God unto salvation.
- Romans 1:16
Not tongues, not signs. People think the ability to speak in tongues, that's what saves them, or that's the sign. That's not the sign. The sign is confession in Jesus Christ and baptism. That's the sign.
And then, it causes people to reject the proper response of salvation. If someone says to me, "How do you know you're saved?" I'll say to them, "Well, during the first week of November, 1977, in Lachine, Quebec on a dark and cold night, in front of two other brothers, I confessed that Jesus was Christ, I repented of my sins, they baptized me in very cold water on a cold November night in 1977." That's the proper response to the gospel. I always remember that night because that's the night I was saved.
3. Claiming False Gifts
It causes one to reject Bible teaching. It also causes one to claim false gifts. I mean, that's a whole other lesson, but we don't heal today. We don't speak in tongues today. Those were gifts that were given to the apostles in order to help them establish the church and preach the gospel in the first century. And since then, they've given us God's word with all the information that we need to make the witness and to bring people to God. We don't need any more. We don't need to claim false gifts.
It causes one to focus on the wrong gifts, focusing on healings and tongues, which they cannot have legitimately, instead of focusing on the real gifts that the Holy Spirit gives today: the gift of preaching, the gift of teaching, the gift of serving, the gift of giving, the gift of leading. Those are the gifts we need to pursue.
4. Having the Wrong Focus
Fourthly, it causes one to focus on the wrong things. We don't need to be focused on tongue-speaking. We need to be focused on soul saving. That's the difference right there. Soul saving is what it's about, not tongue-speaking. It causes one to search apart from God's word. It causes people to search in their feelings, subjective information, the inner voice, self-proclaimed profits, rather than the mighty word of God, inspired, given once for all to the saints, able to save, able to teach, able to correct, able to reprove, able to comfort, able to guide. It causes people to search in the wrong places, for the wrong answers.
5. Being Lost
And finally, it can cause one to be lost. In Matthew 7:15-23, Jesus rejects those who claim prophecy and miracles.
15Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.16You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?17So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.18A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.20So then, you will know them by their fruits.
21Not everyone who says to Me, "Lord, Lord," will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.22Many will say to Me on that day, "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?"23And then I will declare to them, "I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness."
- Matthew 7:15-23
They say, "Lord Lord, did we not prophesy? Did we not do miracles in your name?" And what did He say? I mean, didn't they say, "prophesy, miracles." Didn't they claim they could do these things? And what did Jesus say to them? "Go away from me, workers of iniquity, I never knew you." And why didn't He know them? Because they did not come to Him according to His word. He only knows the ones who come to Him according to His word.
Brothers and sisters, there is always a current in the church that carries people away with this idea in every generation. I am now old enough to have seen it happen twice in my Christian lifetime. One of the good things about getting older, you see stuff come back, and say, "I remember that. I remember this."
In the second part of my lesson, we're going to see what the Bible says about tongues. I was going to do this in one lesson, but I would just be rushing on through.
And so, I have a couple of invitations as I close out the first part of this lesson. The first invitation is this: I invite those who have not yet responded in the proper way to Jesus Christ. In other words, if you have not confessed Christ, if you have not repented of your sins, been immersed in the water for the remission of your sins. If you have not done that, then I invite you to come and do that this morning in order to save your soul and guarantee your eternal life with God in heaven.
The second invitation is that I invite those who believe in modern tongue-speaking to consider seriously what I've just said and base their decisions solely on God's word concerning this issue. Every person I've ever studied with on this issue, bases their contention for their tongue-speaking on what somebody else has said, never on the word. They can't ever prove it with the word. It's always with, "Well, I heard and I saw, and I can't deny what this guy said."
The other good thing about getting older is you get to make a lot of mistakes. I grew up Catholic. Please don't be offended if I talk about the Catholic church, but I know about the Catholic church. I mean, I grew up in it. I was an alter boy. I was in monastery with the monks. I know Catholicism. I taught it in school as a school teacher, I taught catechism. So I know that religion. I don't joke about Roman Catholicism, that would be impolite and unkind, but I can talk about it with knowledge.
I can also talk about this with knowledge because after I was Catholic, I was Pentecostal, and I thought I spoke in tongues and I thought I could cast out demons. I thought I could do all these things. That's why I'm not impressed when someone says, "Well, I saw it."
Some people say, "Why did you leave Pentecostalism?" WelI, I was reading the Bible. I just kept reading it. I kept reading it over and over and over. I kept reading it. I read John 20 times in a row, the book of John. I was in Illinois with this group- interestingly enough, they were called the Cleansing Church of Christ, no affiliation with us; "Cleansing" because they would cast out spirits and lay hands. And their idea was, your problem with sin was that you had evil spirits inside of you: the spirit of jealousy, the spirit of adultery, spirit of lust, spirit of lying. And you could lay hands and cast out that spirit. And you'd feel better for a day, but it was like a Kleenex box. Every spirit you cast out, another one would pop up. So, it kept the leaders in business. You always had to go back for more ministry.
People say, "Why did you leave?" I left because I kept reading the New Testament. And the more I read it, the more I said, "Well, they're not doing what's in here. I cannot reconcile what's going on. I can't find it in here." And I would say, "Show me." And they would say, "Well, you don't understand." And I said, "Oh yeah, I understand perfectly." And when I left, they said, "You'll never make it without us." That's what they said to me, "You'll never make it without us." And I said to the guy who told me that, "That's what the priest told me when I left Catholicism, "You'll never make it without us."
And my search was over many, many years. It was years after that, that I found the church. And I discovered that I'll never make it without this, God's word. This is what I'll never make it without.
So I invite you, if you believe in tongue-speaking, charisma, and all that stuff, study. Come study with me or one of our elders or anyone. We have many great teachers. Come and study. Don't be afraid to put it on the table and be challenged with it, that you might grow in knowledge; and make your decision based solely on God's word.
And finally, I invite everyone here to return tonight for part two of this lesson. If you need to respond to our invitation this morning in any way, even for prayers, if you're struggling with something, if you need to be restored, whatever it is, we're going to sing now; as we stand and sing, please come.