(Some of the Bible verses quoted in this study have had comments added in brackets. The sole purpose of this study technique is to emphasise or introduce a line of thought. All verses KJV unless otherwise stated).
How many different languages are spoken around the world today?
Records show that over 6000 different languages are currently in use.
To put that in perspective, if you were to learn a new language every week; it would take over 115 years to learn all the languages of the world!!
So how many of these can you speak?
It creates quite a big communication gap doesn't it?
In the beginning, God had given man one common language;
(Gen 11:1) And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.
Then after the flood (at the Tower of Babel), to restrain the rate of apostasy among this new generation, God confounded the languages of the people, and dispersed them around the world;
(Gen 11:5) And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men built.
(Gen 11:6) And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.
(Gen 11:7) Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.
Well, you could say it worked very well.
How many of the 6000 different languages could you communicate with today?
It is quite a barrier, trying to communicate with someone who speaks a different language.
I only know one language, English; and am therefore limited to talking with other English speaking people.
A conversation I had with a lady some time back caught me by surprise. I had just met this lady, and we got on to the subject of Christianity (as you do!!!).
She asked me "how do you know that you are born again"?
My mind went into overdrive as I tried to recall a good Biblical answer.
The following verse came to mind;
(1Jn 3:9) Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.
I said to the lady, "well, I think it is because I am doing everything in my power to turn from sin; sin has become repulsive to me".
She replied, "but what outward sign shows that you are born again; what outward gift has the Spirit given you"?
The following verse then came to mind;
(Gal 5:22) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
(Gal 5:23) Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
So I said; "people will see the fruit of the Spirit in the way I am living".
Getting a little frustrated she asked; "do you speak in tongues"?
I said "no... why"?
She replied; "to know that you're born of the Spirit".
I quickly tried to recall where in the Bible it said that speaking in tongues was a gift of the Spirit, that every born again person would experience.
She spoke of situations in her church, where many in the congregation would randomly speak in unknown tongues; and that this was a spiritual gift from God.
I thought; what would be the point in that?
I had heard that there was a counterfeit of this gift; and realising this lady may not know her Bible very well, I asked "where in the Bible does it say that every born again person will speak in tongues"?
(I thought; I really need to study this subject too).
She didn't know the exact verse, but I later looked up the following verse, being the one she was referring to;
(Mar 16:17) And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;
So what was happening in this ladies church?
For every good thing that God has created; satan seems to have come along with a counterfeit.
If he has also counterfeited tongues, how could we discern the true from the deception?
Perhaps because it would only 'feel right' if we were experiencing the genuine gift?
We would know the counterfeit, because it would 'feel wrong'.
If it was beyond satan's power and ability to create a counterfeit that 'felt right'; then why would he bother?
Don't be fooled; Satan is very capable of making things 'feel right' or 'feel good'.
The Bible warns of counterfeit signs; that if possible, will deceive even the very elect; and that in 'the end times', many will be sent a strong delusion, that they will believe a lie.
So what would be satan's motive to counterfeiting the gift of tongues?
Well, by using a counterfeit gift of the Spirit, he could gain access to the church of God, divert their attention from important matters and destroy it from within. Some charismatic churches practising tongues, go so far as to say that the Bible is the old letter, and that messages which come through tongues are fresh revelations of the Spirit and therefore more dependable.
We may need to address some unpopular facts in this study, as we investigate this 'gift' practiced today by many well meaning Christians. The war this study wages is not against people, but against error. The same truth that at times can hurt, has also promised to set us free (John 8:32)!
The Genuine Gift of Tongues
Let's look again at the verse the lady was referring to;
(Mar 16:17) And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;
(Mar 16:18) They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.
Does this mean that every born again person will do ALL these things?
The Scriptures clearly indicate that different people will receive different gifts;
(1Co 12:4) Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit...
(1Co 12:8) For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;
(1Co 12:9) To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;
(1Co 12:10) To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues;...
This is saying that different people will be given different gifts, as the Spirit determines the need.
And what about this word 'tongues'?
The Greek word translated as 'tongues' here; is G1100 = Glossa.
This same Greek word can refer to your physical tongue as in the following;
(Mar 7:35) And straightway his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue G1100 was loosed, and he spake plain.
It also simply means 'language', as can be seen in the following;
(Act 2:11) Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues G1100 (language) the wonderful works of God.
(Rev 14:6) ...having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, G1100 (language) and people,
So why did Jesus say; "And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;" (new languages)?
Well, the preceding verse gives us a clue;
(Mar 16:15) And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
Like most of us, the Apostles would have been lucky to know more than 3 different languages.
Jesus told His followers, Go ye therefore, and teach all nations,...Mat 28:19.
So, how could they teach and preach the gospel to a world consisting of thousands of different languages?
How could the apostles go out preaching to all the world, when they spoke only one or two languages?
In order to fulfil the great commission, Jesus promised to give them a unique gift from the Holy Spirit.
It was a miraculous, supernatural ability to speak foreign languages they had not formerly studied or known, for the purpose of spreading the Gospel.
God gives all the gifts of the Spirit to fulfil a practical need. This was the purpose of tongues.
And these signs shall follow them that believe;...they shall speak with new tongues;
The fact that Jesus said these 'new tongues', or languages, would be a "sign", indicates that the ability to speak them would not come as the result of normal linguistic study. Rather, it would be an instantaneous gift to fluently preach in a previously unfamiliar language.
There are only three actual examples of speaking in tongues recorded in the Bible (Acts chapters 2, 10, and 19).
If we look at these three cases, we should find a clearer picture of this sometimes controversial gift.
We see the first example of it at Pentecost;
(Act 2:1) And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. ...
(Act 2:4) And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues (languages), as the Spirit gave them utterance.
(Act 2:5) And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.
(Act 2:6) Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.
(Act 2:7) And they were all amazed and marveled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans?
(Act 2:8) And how hear we every man in our own tongue (language), wherein we were born?
(Act 2:9) Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia,
(Act 2:10) Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes,
(Act 2:11) Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues (languages), the wonderful works of God.
This is almost a reversal of the event of Babel. Back then God scattered the people by confounding the languages; but these men were confounded for a different reason;
(Act 2:6) ...the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.
Notice that the languages spoken by the Apostles were known.
These were not new languages, which nobody among the multitude was able to understand.
But why did the Lord wait until Pentecost to bestow this gift?
The day of Pentecost fell 50 days after Passover. Devoted Israelites would come from all over the Roman empire to worship in Jerusalem. God chose this timely opportunity to bestow this gift of tongues upon the disciples, so they could preach to the visiting Jews in their native languages.
At least 15 different language groups were represented in the crowd that day (Acts 2:9-11)!
As a result, thousands of these visitors were converted. Then, after Pentecost, they in turn would have carried their new faith home to their respective countries.
From this example it should be very clear that the gift of tongues was given to communicate the gospel in different existing languages of the world.
Some have mistakenly suggested that the miracle on Pentecost was a gift to hear and understand different languages. It was not a gift of hearing given to the listeners; but rather a gift of the Spirit given to empower the speaker;
(Act 2:4) And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues...
It is not called the 'gift of ears' for the 'listeners', but the 'gift of tongues' for the 'speakers'.
Furthermore, the sign did not come as 'ears of fire' on the listeners, but 'tongues of fire' on the ones preaching.
It is also sometimes suggested that the gift of tongues is a "heavenly language" understood only by God or those with the gift of interpretation. The Bible is clear in Acts chapter 2, that both the disciples and those listening understood what was being preached.
Let's look now at the second example when Peter preached to Cornelius and his household;
(Act 10:44) While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.
(Act 10:45) And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.
(Act 10:46) For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God...
Acts 10:1 tells us that Cornelius was Italian, while Peter was a Jew and spoke Aramaic. History also tells us that the servants in Roman homes could be from anywhere in the world. Because there were obvious language barriers at this meeting, Peter likely began to preach through an interpreter.
But when the Holy Ghost fell upon Cornelius and his household, the Jews with Peter could understand the Gentiles, who were now speaking in a language that was not their native tongue; but was a language known to the Jews. The record is that the Jews heard these Gentiles "magnify God" in a language known to them.
When later reporting this experience to the church leaders, Peter said,
"the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning" (Act 11:15).
Here, Peter plainly tells us that Cornelius and his family received the same gift of tongues, in the same way the disciples did on the day of Pentecost. In other words, they spoke languages they had not formerly known, in a way that could be understood by those listening. This conforms harmoniously to our first example in Acts 2.
The third and final example of speaking in tongues, is when Paul preached to 12 Ephesian disciples;
(Act 19:6) And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.
Paul was the most educated and widely travelled of the apostles, and he spoke many languages (1 Corinthians 14:18).
When the Holy Spirit came upon these 12 Ephesian men, Paul recognised that they were prophesying, or preaching, in new languages, which were not their native tongue. Most likely they spoke in languages common throughout the Roman Empire, since that would be practical for spreading the Gospel. Luke does not indicate that they received a form of tongues different from the first two examples, so we must assume that it was the same type of gift given at Pentecost.
Scripture reveals that the only times the gift of tongues was associated with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, is when people from more than one language group were gathered together, thus creating communication barriers.
Notice that in Acts chapter 4, we have a repeat of the experience described in chapter 2. The place was shaken, and they were filled with the Holy Spirit; but because there were no foreigners present, the gift of tongues was absent;
(Act 4:31) And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.
The purpose for baptism of the Holy Spirit is not to mutter or babble unintelligible sounds, but rather to be empowered for preaching. This is why Jesus said, But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: (and notice the purpose...) and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth (Act 1:8).
Based on the above examples of tongues; in a church full of English speaking people, you should not expect to see a demonstration of this supernatural gift of communication.
The Message to Corinth
Of the 14 New Testament books written by Paul, 1 Corinthians is the only one in which he deals with the subject of tongues. The Corinthian church obviously had a specific, temporary problem because Paul's second letter to Corinth never mentions tongues.
The ancient city of Corinth was famous for its two international seaports. Because the Corinthian church was a melting pot of many different nationalities, its services would have often became chaotic and confusing.
Evidently some of the members would pray, testify, or preach in languages unknown to the others present. This is why Paul commanded that if they spoke in a language (tongue) unknown to the majority, they should remain silent unless there was someone there to interpret or translate;
(1Co 14:28) But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.
(A translator is someone who knew more than one language, and was able to reiterate in a language known to others).
In other words, it's not polite to speak in a language that your audience cannot understand.
Paul puts it quite plainly;
(1Co 14:6) Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues (other languages), what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine?
(1Co 14:7) And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped?
(1Co 14:8) For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?
(1Co 14:9) So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air....
(1Co 14:19) Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue (language)....
(1Co 14:27) If any man speak in an unknown tongue (language), let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret. (ie, let someone interpret his language to the language of the others present).
(1Co 14:28) But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.
Does this passage support babbling unknown tongues during services?
The consistent message of Paul throughout Scripture is the very opposite.
In 1 Timothy 6:20, he says to "avoid profane and vain babblings."
And in 2 Timothy 2:16, Paul repeats that counsel: "But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness".
In other words, the very purpose for the gift of speech is to communicate your thoughts.
If those present do not understand your communication, then keep silent.
Notice also in verse 28 above; that the speaker understands the prayers or words that he is speaking.
It says if there is no interpreter, "let him speak to himself, and to God".
It would not say this if God alone only understood his words. There is no Scriptural support for situations where the speaker is unaware of what he is saying.
Heavenly Prayer Language?
Most would agree that the tongues spoken in the book of Acts were normal languages of the world. But others would quickly add that there is a second gift: a heavenly prayer language.
This Spiritual gift, they say, is to express oneself "with groanings which cannot be uttered." (Rom 8:26).
The purpose, they say, is so the devil cannot understand our prayers.
Firstly, nowhere are we taught to hide our prayers from the devil. He trembles when he hears Christians pray!
And secondly, if all utterances of tongues require interpreting (as specified by Paul), won't satan here the message when it is interpreted anyway?
This doctrine of a prayer language is based mainly upon 1 Corinthians 14:14, where Paul says, "For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful".
They interpret this to mean that when Paul prayed in the Spirit, he used a "heavenly tongue" and did not himself know what he was praying for. This theory raises an important question. How would the supplicant ever know if his prayer were answered?
So what is Paul really saying in 1 Corinthians 14:14?
The problem in understanding this verse comes largely from the cumbersome translation.
Let's rephrase this verse in modern English:
"If I pray in a language those around me do not know, I might be praying with the Spirit, but my thoughts would be unfruitful for those listening."
Paul is adamant that if we pray out loud, we should either pray so others around us can understand or else keep quiet!
Notice the next few verses;
(1Co 14:15) What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.
(1Co 14:16) Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest?
According to this text, who has the problem with understanding?
It is the listener and not the speaker. If you have ever prayed with someone who is offering a prayer in a language unknown to you; then you know what Paul meant when he said; it is difficult for you to say "Amen" (meaning "so be it") at the end of the prayer. Without an interpreter, you have no idea of what you are assenting to.
You may have just asked a blessing on the devil as far as you know!
It is obvious from the context of 1 Corinthians 14, that the purpose of speaking in tongues, or foreign languages, is to communicate the gospel and thereby edify the church. If the listeners do not understand the spoken language they cannot be edified. Consequently, if there is no interpreter, the speaker is simply speaking into the air and the only ones present who know what is being said are God and himself; (Yet many who claim to speak in tongues, admit they don't even know what they are saying).
This is the clear meaning of the often- misquoted verse 2;
"For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue (unknown language) speaketh not unto men (because they are unable to understand his unknown language), but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit (even though) in the spirit he speaketh mysteries".
Paul emphasises again that the languages spoken need to be understood by the hearers, or else the one who wants to share the mysteries of the gospel needs to sit quietly in meditation between himself and God.
"So likewise ye; except ye utter by tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air." "But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God." Verses 9, 28.
Clearly, the entire purpose of tongues is to cross language barriers and communicate the gospel!
Some may ask, "didn't Paul say he spoke with the tongues of angels?"
Paul said, "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels ..." (1 Corinthians 13:1).
If you read this verse in its context, you will see that the word "though" actually means "even if."
For example, Paul also said in verse 2, though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; (he did not understand all mysteries, or have all knowledge; as he admits in verse 9; "For we know in part, and we prophesy in part".) and though I have all faith, (neither did he have all faith).
And verse 3 adds, "Though I give my body to be burned ..." Paul was beheaded, not burned.
It becomes clear that the best translation for this word would be "even if";
(1Co 13:1) even if I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
(1Co 13:2) And even if I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and even if I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
(1Co 13:3) And even if I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and even if I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
We believe that all the gifts of the Spirit, including the true gift of tongues, are needed and available to the church today. But the Scriptures teach that some gifts are more important than others, and that we should focus on the most important ones; "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 list;
(1Co 12:28) And God hath set some (ie, not all) in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues (ie, to speak or interpret different languages).
(1Co 14:5) ...greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh, with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.
Some preachers appear to have turned the list upside down, and have made the gift of tongues the primary emphasis of their preaching. They would have us think that a Christian who does not speak in tongues is a second-class citizen. But Paul makes it clear that different gifts are given to different people, and no one is expected to have all the gifts.
Paul asks in 1 Corinthians 12:29, 30: "Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?"
The answer is obviously NO!
The Bible says, "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance." (Galatians 5:22, 23).
But these same preachers would have us believe that the fruit of the Spirit is tongues, or that every person who is filled with the Holy Spirit will speak in tongues.
Yet out of more than 50 examples in the Bible where God filled His people with the Spirit, only three times is tongues connected with the experience (and each of these 3 examples involved a language barrier).
Furthermore, Jesus is our example. He was filled with the Holy Spirit, yet He never spoke in tongues. John the Baptist was "filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb" (Luke 1:15), but there is no record that he spoke in tongues, either.
Of the 27 books in the New Testament, only three make any reference at all to the gift of 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 puts the emphasis.
Should we be seeking tongues as a supernatural sign that we are born again?
Should we be seeking anything associated with supernatural signs?
Jesus said "An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign"; (Mat 12:39).
The genuine gift of tongues is a powerful tool for the proclamation of the gospel.
But remember, the devil has a counterfeit for every truth of God.
Glossolalia (glô´se-lâ'lê-a) is the word often used to describe the popular experience found in most charismatic churches.
Note its connection to the Greek word for 'tongues' which we looked at earlier; Glossa.
Glossolalia is defined in the American Heritage Dictionary as: "fabricated and non-meaningful speech, especially such speech associated with a trance state or certain schizophrenic syndromes."
Contrast that with the same dictionary's definition for a language: "The use by human beings of voice sounds, and often written symbols representing these sounds, in organized combinations and patterns in order to express and communicate thoughts and feelings."
By any definition, the disjointed sounds of glossolalia are not a language.
"I once heard a testimony at a seminar I attended; about a Christian gathering where speaking in tongues was prominent.
One particular gentleman spent some time babbling in a language that neither he nor the audience understood. However, someone in the crowd did know this particular foreign language; and quietly approached the speaker after the service. He told him, "do you know what you were saying; you were actually blaspheming God in my native language!"
Do you see the danger in not knowing what you are saying?
Another reported case was of a 'spirit filled' pastor's wife repeating;
"Handa kala shami, handa kala shami, handa kala shami... " over and over again.
This instantly should seem suspicious, because Jesus said, "But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do." (Matthew 6:7).
Apparently each time this happened, the woman's husband would stop preaching and provide dubious English translation for her so-called message. Usually it began with "Thus saith the Lord."
Yet in spite of the fact that she always repeated the words "handa kala shami," the pastor's vague interpretation was different each time; and sometimes three times longer than the utterance.
You would have to ask why, if this was a message from God; wouldn't He give it to them in English the first time. If a gathering consisted of solely English speaking people (as it was in this case), the gift of speaking other languages would not be required. Why would God send information in another language, just to have someone else translate it into English?
Why not give the revelation straight away in English?
Is it because God gives a coded language so that satan won't know the message?
When it is interpreted, won't he hear it anyway?
A bit of historical research reveals that this modern manifestation of tongues finds its roots not in the Bible, but rather in ancient pagan spiritualistic rituals.
In the sixth century B.C., the Oracle of Delphi was housed in a temple built near the foot of Mt. Parnassus. Delphi was also sacred to Dionysus, the god associated with wine, fertility, and sensual dance, and to the nine Muses, patron goddesses of music.
While exhilarating music was played, the chief priestess named Pythia would breathe intoxicating vapors, go into a frenzied trance, and then begin jabbering. The weird sounds the priestess muttered were then interpreted by a priest, who usually spoke in verse. Her utterances were regarded as the words of Apollo, but the messages were so ambiguous that they could seldom be proven wrong.
Another interesting case involves Native Americans. The Indians would eat the hallucinogenic peyote, then sit in a circle and chant and pound drums for hours. Before long, several were spasmodically muttering as they experienced their tormenting visions. Today the charismatic churches are by far the most popular among the Native Americans because it is such an easy and natural transition from their old religions.
Among many heathen African tribes, in order to invoke the blessing of their gods, the people would sacrifice a chicken or goat and then dance around a fire for long hours, chanting songs to the hypnotic rhythm of a pounding drum. Eventually some of the people would become possessed by their gods and begin speaking the eerie languages of the spirit world. Then the local witch doctor or priest would translate the messages. This ritual is still practiced today among the Voodoo Catholics in the West Indies.
This pagan practice first found its way into the North American Christian churches in the early 1800s. Many of the African slaves who were brought to America and forced to accept Christianity were unable to read the Bible for themselves. Even though they came from a variety of tribes in Africa, one practice most tribes held in common was the "Spirit Dances" with the "spirit-possessed" person muttering.
The slaves mistakenly associated this with the Christian "gift of tongues" and began to incorporate a modified version into their meetings. These frantic services, which were accompanied by heavy rhythmic music, began to spread at first only in the South and the participants were mocked by the mainline denominations as "Holy Rollers."
Some even went so far as to grab venomous serpents during their possessed trances as a means of proving that they had the "spirit." (This was a misuse of Mark 16:18, which says, "They shall take up serpents," in reference to the time Paul was accidentally bitten by a serpent but was unharmed by the venom. See Acts 28:3-6.) For people to hunt down and pick up deadly snakes in order to prove that they have the Holy Spirit is, in reality, tempting God!
The national expansion of the Pentecostal movement among Caucasians began in Los Angeles at the Apostolic Faith Gospel Mission on Azusa Street in 1906. The leader was a black former holiness preacher named William Seymour. From there, leaders continued to refine the doctrines and make them more attractive and palatable to other mainline Christians.
"Then in about 1960 the charismatic movement began attracting followers within traditional denominations. From then it continued to have explosive growth until now there are several million charismatics in Protestant and Catholic churches throughout the world."
It is important to note the prominent role music plays in all the pagan religions that practice glossolalia. This counterfeit gift of tongues first found its foothold in mainline churches through "baptized" pagan music and worship styles. The dominant, repetitious rhythms and syncopated beat disarm the higher reasoning powers and put the subconscious mind in a hypnotic state. In this vulnerable condition, the spirit of ecstatic utterance finds easy access.
Now the devil is using this counterfeit gift of tongues, like a Trojan horse, to introduce pagan worship styles into Christian churches with a frightening degree of success. Satan wants to shift the attention of Christians from repentance and faith, to feeling. He appears to be succeeding, because many charismatic churches say the messages which come through tongues are fresh revelations of the Spirit and are therefore more dependable than the Bible.
So now the stage is set for Satan's final performance!
Babbling in Babylon
So why is understanding the subject of tongues so essential for us today?
We must remember that one of the principal characteristics of ancient Babylon at the tower of Babel was a confusion of tongues (Genesis 11:7-9).
Revelation tells us that in the last days, God's people are to be called out of Babylon and its confusing counterfeit religious systems. It also says;
"And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet." (Revelation 16:13).
The phrase "out of the mouth" represents speech. Could this represent satan using speech as one of his many deceptive powers. Also interesting from the above verse, is the fact that a frog's main weapon is its tongue. Unclean tongues? Perhaps God is trying to tell us something.
Remember that the confusion of tongues at Babel was not a blessing of the Spirit, but rather a curse for their rebellion. In fact, we get our modern word "babbling" from the story of ancient Babel.
At Pentecost, the curse of Babel was reversed so that others might understand the gospel.
How God's Spirit Affects Us
The concept that a person who is "slain in the spirit" should fall to the ground and wallow and mutter is an insult to the Holy Ghost. The reason God gives us His Spirit is to restore in us His image; not to rob us of all dignity and self-control!
On mount Carmel, the pagan prophets of Baal jumped on the altar and shouted and moaned. They prophesied and cut themselves. By contrast, Elijah quietly knelt and prayed a simple 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 we receive the Spirit is not consistent with Scripture;
"The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets." (1 Corinthians 14:32).
Here's another case in point. After Jesus saved a berserk, demon-possessed man by the sea, the healed man was seen "sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind." (Luke 8:35).
I have sometimes watched charismatic services on TV; complete with members of the congregation approaching the stage to be 'slain in the spirit'.
It always amazed me how these situations were completely opposite to examples seen in the gospels.
In such examples, possessed people were brought to Jesus, typically rolling around on the ground and clearly not of sound mind. Jesus would raise his hand to them, and they would stand upon their feet completely relieved of their demonic possession.
In stark comparison to this, through being 'slain in the spirit'; a normal person would approach the stage of their church; the pastor would raise his hand; and the person would fall to the ground, rolling around seemingly no longer of sound mind.
I would think, is this really from God???
The invitation of God is "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord." (Isaiah 1:18).
He wants us to use our heads.
Some of you reading this study may be thinking:
"How dare you say these things? I have spoken in tongues for years and know it is from God!"
As Christians, we should never base our conclusions on how we feel. After all, the devil can certainly make us feel good. Rather, we must base our beliefs upon the sure Word of God. Many who genuinely believe they are practising gifts of the Spirit, may find themselves without salvation;
(Mat 7:21) Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
(Mat 7:22) Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, (and here come the gifts...) have we not prophesied in thy name and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
(Mat 7:23) And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (or lawlessness; NIV; ie; transgression of law).
It is important to understand that the above verse is speaking about Christians. No one else is going around performing these gifts 'in Jesus' name'!
And diverting from the topic slightly, another point worthy of consideration is; what law are these Christians transgressing, that causes Jesus to say;
I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work lawlessness.
According to James, we will be judged by the Ten Commandment law;
(Jas 2:10) For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.
(Jas 2:11) For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law.
(Jas 2:12) So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.
But hang on; isn't it legalism to keep the Ten Commandments today?
Well, I guess that would depend on your motives.
Jesus said; if you love me, keep my commandments. (John 14:15).
We often meet people who refer to the keeping of the 4th commandment; as legalism.
We find this mentality very strange.
It would mean, that if we refrained from stealing; we are being legalistic.
And if we refrained from bearing false witness; we are being legalistic.
And if we love God with all our hearts; we are just being legalistic!
When Jesus told the adulterous woman to go and sin no more; did He burst out laughing and say; "don't be silly, that would be legalism if you stopped committing adultery: just go on as you have been"!
It appears that many conveniently use legalism as a way to cancel out repentance.
Jesus preached repentance. (Mat 4:17, Mar 1:15)
He is not willing that any perish, but that all will come to repentance. (Luk 13:3, 2Pet 3:9)
Repentance is turning from sin.
And sin is transgression of the Ten Commandment law. (Rom 7:7, Jam 2:11)
If turning from sin is made to look wrong by labelling it legalism; then legalism makes repentance unnecessary.
Repentance is not just a mental ascent; but must also be demonstrated by our actions.
Satan must be very happy with this term legalism.
Obedience is obeying the commandments of God, not just thinking about obeying them.
You will see the importance of this point shortly.
Given to the Obedient
Are there some basic requirements for receiving this most precious gift of the Holy Spirit?
Jesus says, "If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth." (John 14:15-17).
The order is important.
First we obey, then Jesus prays, then the Father gives the Spirit of His Son to dwell in our hearts.
"And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him." (Acts 5:32).
It appears that obedience to God proceeds receiving the gifts of the Spirit.
And why does God give the Spirit?
"But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me." (Acts 1:8).
God does not give us the Spirit to babble, but as power for witnessing!
How can we receive the genuine gift of the Holy Spirit?
Totally submit to God, be willing to forgive others, obey Him, and ask;
(Luk 11:13) If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?