Now tongue-speaking or glossalalia is one of the most popular of the gifts claimed today. I would like to show that it is totally over-rated among Christians today compared to the weight that the Bible puts on it. In fact, there are only four mentions of believers using the gift of tongues in the New Testament, so it wasn’t as important then as it is being made to appear today. And, of course, there are many examples of people believing in Acts but not having the gift of tongues. In his list of the gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, Paul puts tongues at the end of the list and in fact in Ephesians 4:11 where he lists the gifts, he doesn’t even include tongues. He says in 1 Corinthians 14:1& 2 that we should covet instead to prophesy rather than use tongues. He explains in 1 Corinthians 12:12-30 that in a church the gifts are divided proportionately in the same way as our body has different parts, so in the church different people had different gifts. But in the churches of today, the majority of people are claiming that tongues / glossalalia is their gift. If there really is a spirit-filled church today, then its members will display all the gifts including apostleship, miracles, healings etc. But the fact is that these gifts are not commonplace in all churches today who are claiming to have the gifts. There is a total imbalance between those claiming the gift of tongues and those, if any, claiming the other gifts. But Paul says that God has “tempered the body together” (1 Cor. 12:24), the body of the church, in the perfect balance of the gifts. So therefore, that shows that it is not vital to possess the gift of tongues to be saved, but there are some Pentecostal groups who claim that baptism of the spirit is only testified by possessing tongues. Here we are being told that not everyone in the church can possess tongues and that they are not something to be particularly sought.
Further to this, present tongue-speaking is composed of gibberish – a mumbo-jumbo of sounds that can’t be understood by those who hear it. Now this phenomena of glossalalia is also experienced in many non-Christian religions who experience the emotional release of speaking in gibberish. Now the same thing has happened to so-called Christians today, but due to their superficial reading of the Bible, I would suggest they have wrongly applied the passages about speaking in tongues to themselves. The Bible teaches that speaking in tongues was speaking in foreign languages that were understood by the people to whom it was directed. Speaking in unknown sounds could easily be done by non-Christians –even I could do it – and it would not be much of a sign. In Acts 2 the apostles spoke in tongues and the people who heard who were out of every nation under heaven heard them speak every man in his own language. These people were amazed, they marvelled saying one to another “art not all these which speak Galileans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? We do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God” (Acts 2:7). Now that shows that the tongues with which they spoke were foreign languages which were understood by those whose native tongue they were.
The Greek word for “tongues” which the disciples spoke is “glossa” [whence 'glossalalia'] and that is the same word used later in the New Testament to describe the languages possessed then and it is used in Revelation where we are told that people of every tongue and nation, of “every tongue under heaven” would be redeemed: of every language, that is what it means.
Now speaking in gibberish with no interpreter would not have made the people so amazed. It's not Biblical glossalalia. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14:19 that he would rather speak five words that could be understood than 10,000 words in an unknown language. He says in verse 10, there are many kinds of languages, that is tongues, in the world and there is only any point in speaking in a tongue or language which the audience understood. Verse 27 in the Diaglott, literal Greek version of 1 Corinthians 14 says “if anyone speaks in a foreign language”. Similarly in 1 Corinthians 13:1 he says he speaks with the tongues of men, literally translated as the “languages of mankind”.
So I think the point is quite clear that speaking in tongues was speaking in foreign languages, so therefore it is not surprising to read in 1 Corinthians 14:22 “tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not”. They were to be used as a means of preaching to unbelievers which took place in public. That is why Paul spoke in tongues “more than ye all” (1 Cor. 14:18) he said, because he had been to so many different countries needing to use those gifts.
We also read of the gift of interpretation of tongues / glossalalia. That is, to interpret, to translate from one language to another. For example, we read in Acts 9: 36 of Tabitha, which by interpretation, by translation from one language to another, “which by interpretation is called Dorcas”.
In 1 Corinthians 14, and I would encourage you all to try and look at that at the moment, is a list of commands regarding how the gift of tongues / glossalalia should be used – verse 37 says “if any man think himself a prophet, or spiritually gifted person, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you (says Paul) are the commandments of the Lord”. So he is saying that the test of whether someone really has the gifts is whether they obey the Lord’s commands he is giving about using them. Now I suggest that most of these commands we are going to read are disobeyed by the churches today. If unbelievers see a church full of people jabbering away, they will think you are mad, Paul says in verse 23, and that is exactly the type of mockery that Christianity is getting today. So he says, verse 27, you should speak “by course” that is, one after another. Or verse 30 “If anything be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace”. So there should never be more than one person speaking in a tongue at any one time during a service. But because of the emotional and psychological nature of the gibberish speaking that happens in churches today, more than one person at a time does speak because there is a lack of control of the people speaking. But Paul clearly says, verse 32, “the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets”. So it is not a question of being irresistibly carried away. Verse 28 says that they should only speak if there is an interpreter present, perhaps to translate the response of the audience so the speaker could understand it, if he wasn’t from that part of the world.
Paul says, verse 27, that only two or three people at the most should use the gift of tongues / glossalalia during a service, because it was unlikely that there would be more than say three different nationalities present at any one meeting. The fact that many Charismatics do speak in tongues without an interpreter indicates a lack of attention to that command.
Verse 34 is, to me, most decisive. In the context of the use of the gifts of the spirit in church services, we are told, “let you women keep silence in the churches, for it is not permitted unto them to speak”. So if a woman speaks in tongues / glossalalia in church, she is proving that in fact she is not spiritually gifted because she is contradicting what verse 37 says which tells us that these things are the commands of the Lord himself.
And it seems that women, in my experience of Pentecostal churches, do predominate in speaking in tongues / glossalalia.
So in nearly all these clear commands which will be obeyed by every truly spiritually gifted person, we can see that the Evangelical movement today disobeys those commands of the Lord himself.
Unfortunately the fact that paranormal things are done by Christians is accepted by some as proof that these people are of God. But remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:22& 23, and I don’t say these words to condemn anybody but just to warn you, he says “Many will say to me in that day, Lord. Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? (Lord, I thought that I had the gift of prophecy?) and in thy name have cast out demons? (Lord, I thought I had the gift of healing?) and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you”. Now it doesn’t say that a few misguided well-meaning people are going to have that sort of disappointment. No, it says that many people, many will be saying things like that in the day of judgment. So therefore it follows that many of the people who profess to have the gifts, do not really know Christ. As 1 John 4:1 says, “try the spirits whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world”.
Even in the First Century there was the gift of “discerning of spirits” we are told (1 Cor. 12:10), to enable the church to recognize the many false claims being made even in their time to spirit possession. That gift of discerning of spirits along with all of them, has been replaced by the Word of God and if we use scripture to test the claims that are being made, with an open mind, I fear the verdict is clear.
Now as I have said that paranormal events do occur for which there is no human explanation, I do not doubt. But I don’t believe that they depend on the Holy Spirit coming directly upon people in order for them to occur. I mean, the fact that faith healers can do paranormal cures, as can witch doctors, shows that having the ability to heal is no proof at all that you are of God. It seems that with various stimuli and mental excitation the mind can produce physical effects in our body. There was an article recently in the Scientific American which was analysing the work of a psychologist in London who is an atheist. You go on a course with this man and after six weeks or whatever you can walk on fire and not get your feet burnt. Now the reviewer was contrasting this man who is an atheist with the Hindus and other religious groups who walk on fire and don’t get their feet burnt and says “there you are, that’s of God”, but the psychologist knows how to psyche people up in the right way, he’s cracked the psychology and so he can achieve the same result.
There have been a lot of sudden changes that have come upon people, for example, at a time of earthquake or crisis like that because of the excitation of the event. And so, at many healing meetings people are told that if their eyelids feel heavy, if they feel like falling and if they scream, that is the Holy Spirit coming upon them. But they are all the classic symptoms and characteristics of hypnosis. Such methods were not used by the apostles. Obviously, if somebody believes something strongly then paranormal things will happen, and that is why the Pentecostal movement today places all this emphasis on “you must have faith, you must believe it very strongly”. And of course if you believe very strongly that you are going to get better of cancer, or whatever, well you may do. I do not deny that, but it is not necessarily of God.
So then, I believe that the spirit is now found in the Word of God. The Bible is written by inspiration of God, we are told, in-spirit-ation, God putting his spirit into the Word of God. That is why Christ could say “my words are spirit” (Jn. 6:63) and we are told that Christ spoke the words of God because “God giveth…the spirit…unto him” (Jn. 3:34).
Zechariah 7:12 talks of the words which the Lord of Hosts hath sent “in his spirit by the…prophets”.
Acts 1:16 describes David’s writings as the “Holy Spirit spake by the mouth of David”. So the Word of God is the Holy Spirit speaking to us.
Thank you very much gentlemen. For those of you who do not know either of our two speakers this evening, I will just fill you in on a little bit of their background.
Mr. Liliekas, a born-again Christian for 30 years, obtained a graduate degree in Theology from Portland Bible College in Oregon and did two years post-graduate work in pastoral care. He has subsequently worked on the staff of the Portland Bible Temple and Restoration Charismatic Centre. He has also been involved in extensive evangelism in Europe with open-air campaigns.
Mr. Heaster is a school teacher from South London and he has been involved in active missionary work particularly in Africa and the Caribbean and is the Editor of a magazine which is sent out to Africa.
Having heard both of our speakers opening addresses there is now an opportunity for people to stretch their legs.
It’s two minutes to eight. Can we please meet back here to begin again at 10 past please. Thank you.
Now is the opportunity for each speaker to reply to the other one’s opening remarks. Ten minutes is allotted for each speaker and I will ask Mr. Liliekas to reply for 10 minutes to Mr. Heaster’s opening address.