Despite the Protestant Reformation and despite the glory and blessing of the many revivals in which God came down to earth by his Holy Spirit, exalting man by humbling him and giving him glimpses of his own (God’s) glory and power and love, and in which biblical truth is prized above all, traditional, vigorous, Protestant Christianity is in decline. It is being replaced by a pop-psychology with emotional songs in worship during which the name of the divine Son of God is used as a mantra, being repeated over and over and nauseatingly over, and where the coming of the presence of the Holy Spirit “falling” on the congregation resulting in an emotional and ecstatic response, is the goal. It is a pseudo-Christianity which focuses on celebrity preachers with “positive” and entertaining messages. It is filled with unbiblical views and spirituality, too often characterised by the flesh, and its members walk by sight, not by faith, as they seek the constant manifestations of the Holy Spirit to boost their excitement and keep their faith alive.
And it is tantalising and attractive as it promises a joyful, vibrant relationship with God where we can engage in literal conversations with him at any time. It promises to set us free from the restraints of the imagined straitjacket of traditional Protestant Evangelical theology and swirl us into a romance with God through his Holy Spirit. We’re guaranteed to be overwhelmed with his love, to receive the spiritual gifts enumerated in various places in the New Testament; and, not by any means least, to have wealth, power and influence under the blessing of God. Satan will be under our feet, we’ll have power to cast out demons, and we can have or achieve anything we want simply by speaking faith-filled words.
In order to obtain all these blessings (and many more are promised), we need to have the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This is the portal through which we must enter if we would have the power and the blessing of God. The grand hallmark of the movement and the evidence that one has actually received this baptism of the Holy Spirit is the ability to speak in tongues. Not all Pentecostals have the gift of healing, not all can prophesy, not all can deliver words of wisdom or words of knowledge, but all can speak in tongues, as Pentecostals understand these gifts. This is the great sign which assures those who have it that they have been baptized in the Holy Spirit. And it is this which has been responsible for the success of the Ecumenical Movement as Protestants of all denominations and groups fellowship with Catholics and anybody else who speaks in tongues. It is the glue that binds them together as they all ignore the great doctrinal truths of the gospel which separate God’s people from the rest.
This gift of tongues-speaking is called a prayer language because it is usually acknowledged that it is not the gift of tongues given in Acts chapter 2; it is that which the apostle Paul wrote about: “For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit” (1 Cor 14:2 ESV). It is also regarded by them as tongues of angels (1 Cor 13:1).
These two verses are a face-saver for Pentecostals because they enable them to speak their so-called prayer language without seeming to go against scripture. They deliver them from having to explain why their gift of tongues is useless for speaking to real people in real languages whilst unknown to the speaker, because they can hide behind the above verses and claim to be speaking to God alone; and it is a mystery, so who could challenge that? But despite its being a “prayer language” which should therefore be spoken privately to God, it is evident in every Pentecostal meeting, worship or otherwise, and this despite Paul’s restriction of its use in public meetings unless the message is interpreted.
Tongues under Suspicion
I was at a Men’s Convention with the pastor and some men from a Baptist church on one occasion; the convention was an annual event sponsored by a large Pentecostal church to which other churches were invited. During one of the “worship” breaks between talks, the leader shouted “everybody, speak in tongues”; and everybody who had been baptized in the Spirit – which was nearly every person there – started speaking in tongues. It was pandemonium. Then the leader told them to stop. And they stopped. There was no call for somebody to interpret, no attempt whatsoever to edify anybody there with the message from God that should have been made intelligible, according to Paul’s instructions for speaking in tongues at a public gathering. It was just a meaningless activity and done against the tenor of scripture.
Another time I was at a lunchtime prayer meeting with the Pentecostal students group at the local university where I worked. As I prayed, a male student was praying in tongues. He did this from the moment the meeting started until the moment it ended. He had a deep voice and it was hard to hear other students praying in English. It was very distracting and I was getting very irritated by it. Not being Pentecostal myself, I had no sympathy for something that went against the teaching about tongues-speaking in which Paul tells us to refrain from speaking unintelligible words which do not edify and which have no interpretation. No doubt this kind of thing happens all the time at Pentecostal meetings, and is consequently overlooked because they all do it. But it is wrong.
On another occasion, a missionary and pastor in my Presbyterian church and lecturer of Hebrew and New Testament Greek in the college, attended a Pentecostal meeting, and when the opportunity arose, he recited Psalm 23 in Hebrew. It was “interpreted” by somebody there but, as this pastor expected, the interpretation had nothing to do with Psalm 23. On another occasion he did the same thing, only he spoke the Lord’s Prayer in NT Greek; again, it was “interpreted” but had no connection with the Lord’s Prayer whatsoever. I’ve heard of others doing this same thing.
An acquaintance of mine was walking past a building where some Pentecostals were having their meeting. He asked a man standing outside the front door what was going on. The man told my friend it was a church meeting and asked him if he’d like to speak in tongues. My friend agreed and the man laid hands on him and he spoke in tongues. The man didn’t tell him the gospel, didn’t even ask him if he was saved. My friend told me about it later and thought it was a laugh; and he still isn’t saved, as far as I know.
At a Holy Spirit seminar my wife was speaking to a young man who was visiting the church from a church in another state to be part of this seminar; he said had been learning to speak in tongues. My wife sensed that something was wrong so she asked him if he knew Jesus as his personal Lord and Saviour. He was taken aback by this question but nevertheless answered truthfully, admitting he hadn’t got to that stage yet. He spoke in tongues but didn’t know Jesus? No wonder Jesus warned: “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’” (Matt 7:22-23).
If we are suspicious about such obvious fakery we ought to be investigating what is going on behind the scenes. The apostle John urges, “do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 Jn 4:1).
The Book of Mormon
It may surprise some to discover that Mormons speak in tongues. This “gift” is recorded in the Book of Mormon, and therefore has been in that (oc)cult since its beginning and has a permanent place in Mormonism. We read, “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ by baptism – yea, by following your Lord and your Saviour down into the water, according to his word, behold, then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost; yea, then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost; and then can ye speak with the tongue of angels, and shout praises unto the Holy One of Israel. But, behold, my beloved brethren, thus came the voice of the Son unto me, saying: After ye have repented of your sins, and witnessed unto the Father that ye are willing to keep my commandments, by the baptism of water, and have received the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost, and can speak with a new tongue, yea, even with the tongue of angels, and after this should deny me, it would have been better for you that ye had not known me” (2 Nephi 31:13-14).
And again: “Do ye not remember that I said unto you that after ye had received the Holy Ghost ye could speak with the tongue of angels? And now, how could ye speak with the tongue of angels save it were by the Holy Ghost? Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things that ye should do” (2 Nephi 32:2-3).
Is not this chilling? If a Pentecostal believer heard these words without knowing where they came from, he would assume without doubt or question that they were spoken by a modern-day televangelist or Pentecostal leader or prophet, and therefore receive them trustingly as being from God. Yet we know they are from Satan. These words are enshrined in the Book of Mormon, the bible of a false religion which denies the Trinity even as it speaks of the three Persons. How can this be? Shouldn’t these things make us at least a little bit suspicious?
There’s a wonderfully revealing passage in scripture which draws aside the veil of the physical and gives us a look at a scene in heaven, and which consequently helps us understand the deception being perpetrated on earth. When godly King Jehoshaphat was with wicked King Ahab in Ahab’s court, Jehoshaphat didn’t trust Ahab’s prophets and called for a prophet of God. Ahab reluctantly agreed and they fetched the prophet Micaiah who had been imprisoned by Ahab for prophesying against him. Micaiah, under the power of God, had a vision. He told Jehoshaphat and Ahab, “…hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing beside him on his right hand and on his left; and the LORD said, ‘Who will entice Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And one said one thing, and another said another. Then a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD, saying, ‘I will entice him’. And the LORD said to him, ‘By what means?’ And he said, ‘I will go out, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets’. And he said, ‘You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go out and do so’. Now therefore behold, the LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; the LORD has declared disaster for you’…..So the king died, and was brought to Samaria. And they buried the king in Samaria” (1 Kings 22:19-23, 37).
So we’re shown in scripture that there are such beings as lying spirits. And I’ve shown that unbelievers and cults can also speak in tongues. No wonder that the apostle John urges Christians to test the spirits to see whether they are from God. Not only does John confirm this, but Paul also: “The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and with false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thess 2:8-12).
If tongues that Christians speak in Pentecostal meetings is exercised unbiblically, being both audible and without interpretation; and if an interpretation is given that is wrong (and who in the congregation would know it was wrong?); and if the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the subsequent speaking in tongues is required in Mormonism; and if there are such beings as lying spirits and we are to test the spirits to see if they’re from God……who would want such a gift? Unless we can be sure that it is the Holy Spirit of God that gives it, who would want to receive a gift from a devil? Unless we know for sure that it is from the Holy Spirit, we really need to test it first. If it is given from a hostile source, it is not given for our good but to harm us, and therefore such a gift from such a source is very dangerous.
Do you, dear reader, speak in tongues? How can you be sure it is of God if you can’t understand what you’re saying? How do you know that the tongues you’re speaking but can’t understand isn’t given to you by a demon and is in reality vile blasphemy against Jesus? You don’t. You can’t. Unless you test it, that is. But how can it be tested? There is only one sure way. We compare it to what the bible says about it. If it differs from what the bible says, it is suspect, at best, and should be avoided and even repented of.
The Lord Sanctifies his Dwelling Place
Let’s start at the beginning; at the very first time that people in the New Testament spoke in tongues. It was quite a spectacle but nothing as wild and chaotic as happens in Pentecostal assemblies today. There was no “slaying in the Spirit” as is common to Pentecostals; no chaotic laughter. The Holy Spirit didn’t baptise penitents by fire following water baptism as with Mormonism. And although some make a case for the baptism of the Holy Spirit being a separate experience to receiving him in new birth (Jn 3:3-5), the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Church at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4) was a unique, once-given, event, in which he set apart the believers as his holy temple (1 Cor 3:16-17; 6:19; 2 Cor 6:16; Eph 2:21-22). We see this when we compare other scriptures with this passage.
Following the Exodus from Egypt, when the Tabernacle was completed according to God’s instructions, with all the furnishings and items to be used in the service of God and for the offering of sacrifices, he sanctified it by his presence coming upon and in it. “Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting, because the cloud abode upon it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle” (Ex 40:34-35). This was a unique, visible, supernatural event; God came upon the Tabernacle once, and dwelt in it after that.
When Solomon had finished building the Temple and everything was ready for the service of God and for the offering of sacrifices, he sanctified it by his presence coming upon and in it. “And when the priests came out of the Holy Place, a cloud filled the house of the LORD, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD” (1 Kings 8:10-11).
The Chronicler gives more detail about this one-off event: “As soon as Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. And the priests could not enter the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD filled the LORD’s house” (2 Chron 7:1-2).
This was a unique, visible, supernatural event; God came upon the Temple once, and dwelt in it after that.
Before the Church was set apart for God’s use, Jesus told the disciples to prepare for it by waiting: “And, behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (Lk 24:49). And then came the time appointed by God: “When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:1-4).
As with the Tabernacle and the Temple, the coming of God upon and in the Church was a unique, visible, supernatural event never to be repeated. Its purpose was to set it apart as God’s dwelling place with humanity. However, the Church is different to both Tabernacle and Temple because it is a spiritual entity, a spiritual building. The Church is, as Peter writes, “like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 2:5). But the setting apart of this new temple was still by the same method – God descended upon it and sanctified it by fire as he filled it with his presence, not this time upon a tent or a building of bricks and mortar, but on the living stones of believers.
But there was another visible evidence, apart from the tongues of fire, of God’s presence on this occasion – the gift of speaking in tongues. The tongues mentioned in the above passage (Acts 2:1-4) were known languages; Luke even specifies which languages were spoken by these believers – not just Hebrew, Greek and Latin, but many languages of the known world and from the three groups of humanity – the descendants of Shem (Semitic), descendants of Ham (Egypt, Libya etc.), and descendants of Japheth (Indo-European). Those who saw and heard this phenomenon were astonished: “And they were amazed and astonished, saying, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?’” (Acts 2:7-8). In the KJV a wrong impression has been gained by some because the word “unknown” is applied to the word “tongues”; the translators inserted it here so the reader would understand that the languages were unknown to the speakers, not that they were languages unknown to mankind.
Unfortunately, Satan has taken advantage of this translational help to understanding the passage and hijacked the gift of tongues or known languages by producing a counterfeit gift of tongues which is a “language” totally unknown to any people group or nation. Consequently it is understood by Pentecostals, Mormons, mediums, oracles etc. to be languages of angels and/or a unique prayer language given to individual believers. As you would expect, his counterfeits are not very good in comparison to the original, and his gift of tongues is no exception; it is useless babble, gibberish which has no effect other than to deceive those who have received it. Nevertheless it does have spiritual power and has achieved the end for which he gave it, namely, to deceive and to side-track those who possess it so that their focus is no longer gospel-centred but self-centred.
Henry Morris (2017, p. 1756) commenting on 1 Cor 14:4 says: “The word ‘unknown’ is not in the original, but was supplied by the King James translators to emphasize that the language being used was one that was not known to the rest of the congregation, and so such an inspired message would be of no value to them. The gift of languages was spectacular and obviously supernatural, but it was useful only if someone hearing it could actually understand it and interpret (that is, translate) it for the others, so that they also could profit. It was given by the Holy Spirit as a sign of His presence and also to convey a profitable message to at least some in the audience…..The gift of prophecy was not as spectacular, though more profitable. Thus one possessing the gift of tongues could more easily become puffed up and be tempted to use his ability just to draw attention to himself – that is, to ‘edify’ (or ‘build up’) himself. In fact, it is probable that he might even open himself to demonic inspiration, for it is unlikely that the Holy Spirit would inspire a message that would be mere gibberish to its hearers”.
We should also note that Jesus was the temple of God and dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. He was sanctified for this work when he was baptized and the Holy Spirit descended upon him: “And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he (John the Baptist) saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased’” (Matt 3:16-17). When the unbelieving Pharisees demanded a sign from Jesus to prove he had authority to drive the money changers from the temple, he said to them: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. The Jews then said, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?’ But he was speaking about the temple of his body” (Jn 2:19-21).
Tongues as Taught in the Bible
The Baptism with the Holy Spirit
When Jesus left this world, having finished the work he came to do (Jn 19:30), he ascended to heaven in a cloud (Acts 1:9), before which he instructed the disciples: “go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Mk 16:15). He also told them: “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (Lk 24:46-49).
So the Holy Spirit was given for power in witnessing. He came upon the church – the assembled believers – and empowered them to preach the gospel and to suffer whatever men and devils threw at them. And the baptism of the Spirit was a one-off event, as I showed above, and he now dwells in the church – in the hearts of all believers everywhere in all time. Christ’s incarnation, crucifixion, death, burial, resurrection and ascension are not repeatable; neither is Pentecost. The Holy Spirit came upon the church at Pentecost and will continue in it until it is taken up to be with him in heaven on the last day. And the gift of tongues was given to enable the church to take the gospel to all nations and to preach it in each nation’s own language. When they repent and believe the gospel, every believer is baptized in the Holy Spirit and given power to witness and to live the Christian life in accordance with the bible, the written words of God.
“For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and all were made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Cor 12:13). “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God really dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him” (Rom 8:9). “And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’” (Acts 2:38).
The baptism with the Holy Spirit and the gift of tongues were not given so that believers could indulge themselves with frivolous demonstrations of speaking gibberish at will, or of “carpet time” as one Pentecostal laughingly called the “slaying in the Spirit” in a discussion with me. The baptism with the Spirit was not given so that assembled believers can roll around the floor laughing their heads off, or howl like dogs, or pogo-stick around the building, or any other degrading activities which are found only in occult meetings. The gift of tongues was not given so that fools like Kenneth Copeland can have “dialogues” in gibberish with other fools, as can be seen in the video “The Great Apostasy: The Lost Sign”; or to replace prayer in the believer’s own language; or any other flippant self-indulgent activity in which this counterfeit of the true, Holy Spirit-given ability to speak in known languages for the furtherance of the gospel is exercised. The gift of tongues was one of several supernatural gifts sovereignly given by God to chosen individuals in his Church, “All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills” (1 Cor 12:11). “Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?” (1 Cor 12:30).
The evidence of the indwelling Holy Spirit is the fruit of the Spirit. “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears evil fruit….Thus you will recognize them by their fruits” (Matt 7:15-20). “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another” (Gal 5:22-26). It is sad to observe that, particularly as we watch the popular Pentecostal televangelists, it is rather the works of the flesh (Gal 5:19-21) than the fruits of the Spirit which characterise Pentecostalism as a whole.
And the visible evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit was speaking in tongues i.e. known languages (Acts 10:44-45; Mk 16:17 – compare John 3:5-6). But as I’ve already shown, the biblical baptism of the Holy Spirit and the biblical gift of speaking in tongues and the purposes for which they were given are far different from the devil’s counterfeits and his evil designs. Furthermore, the biblical gift of tongues is given to those who believe, not to unbelievers such as I’ve described above under “Tongues Under Suspicion”. “And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues….” (Mk 16:17).
So there are not two different kinds of tongues taught and practiced in the New Testament, there is only one; and that one is known and spoken languages. And when a church member wishes to bring a message from God in a tongue to the congregation during a meeting, he is only to do so if there is somebody present who can translate it (1 Cor 14:27-28). Any other kind of tongues-speaking is a demonic counterfeit or, at best, of the flesh, and should be repented of and rejected.
“Thus, tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers…..If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds?…..For God is not a God of confusion but of peace” (1 Cor 14:22-23, 33).
Morris, H. 2017, Commentary on 1 Corinthians 14:4, “The Henry Morris Study Bible”, Master Books, Green Forest, AR
“Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, published by HarperCollins Publishers 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”