I want to ask you about born again Christians and ‘speaking in tongues’. I experienced this at a different church recently and it was quite overwhelming, but now after I’ve tried to research it I’m quite shocked and confused. John MacArthur lectures on youtube ( ) about it being demonic, existing before Pentecost and in other cults and belief systems eg. Mormonism. Yet I look to other sources which say it’s the truest form of prayer etc. If I may have been participating in something demonic and doctrinally false then I’d like to know about it and I can’t seem to get a weighed truthful answer from anywhere! ??



I am including an outline below which is a discussion of your question and more. I believe that biblically we can show that what is done in most charismatic churches today is not biblical speaking in tongues and that the miraculous speaking in tongues has almost certainly ceased (see the scriptures below which support this conclusion). It is probably true that it is principally an emotional release when people experience the psychological phenomenon of glossalalia. It is true that this phenomenon is observed in many different ecstatic religious groups. It certainly is not limited to Christianity. This should give us pause in analyzing toungue speaking. Biblically, it is/was speaking in an actual human language, understood by some who are present, but not by the one speaking. It is not the gibberish uttered by modern tongue speakers. I do not feel it is my place to judge all who practice this. Who knows… God might work in this way, but I see no support for the modern phenomenon I have observed in churches today.

There is a great tendency in Christian groups (and in all groups I suppose) to demonize those with whom we do not agree. I believe that there is an overreaction on the part of those who understand that the modern phenomenon is not biblical and is probably not the result of the work of the Holy Spirit. I believe it is unlikely that speaking in tongues is demonic or that it is always demonic. I cannot rule out absolutely that demons could work through people opening themselves up in this way. However, I believe it is more likely that those who do this are simply deceived into thinking this is a genuine religious experience from the Holy Spirit working in them. I assume that a person can be deceived about this teaching and still go to heaven. I believe that most who do this are sincere and are not controlled by demons. They are simply mistaken, as I am sure you and I are also mistaken on many points.

I caution not overreacting to this teaching.

So, you should not take active part in a speaking in tongues activity, but you can probably afford to not make this a huge issue. The issue is salvation in the name of Jesus, honoring God, obeying the scripture. Let me know if the outline below is insufficient to answering the biblical question. It also provides some history to the question.

John Oakes

History of Pentecostalism:

Grew out of the Holiness Revival Movement in the 1890s. For example Moody, Spurgeon and so forth. Holiness leaders such as Charles Cullis, John Alexander Dowie, and Albert B. Simpson established healing missions across the U.S. They, like other holiness advocates, believed a new, miraculous era of the spirit was coming which would end in the second coming of Christ.

Early pioneers: Charles Parham. Topeka Bible School, January, 1901. Students spoke in tongues. Moved to Houston. Trained William Seymour.

According to many, the Pentecostal movement began April 9, 1906 in Asuza, California, under leadership of William Seymour.

Interracial, No order of service. Entirely spontaneous. People share a word of prophecy, a tongue, fall in the Spirit, etc.

Broke out in tongues. Extremely emotional. Spread like wildfire.

Initially, believers thought that learning foreign languages by Christians would no longer be necessary. This did not turn out to be true.

Most early groups were Methodist/Wesleyan. This led to the Reformed Pentacostal group of churches as a reaction.

1914 All-white group of ministers formed the Assemblies of God as Reformed Pentecostal.

1913 Jesus’ name baptism only. Rejected trinitarianism. HS baptism essential for salvation. (modalism)

Pentecostal Churches:

Church of God, Church of God in Christ, Pentecostal Holiness Church (Wesleyan, Methodistic)

Assemblies of God, International Church of the Four Square Gospel (Reformed, Baptistic)

United Pentecostal Church International, eAssemblies of the World (Oneness, modalistic, deny the trinity)

Many more: Apostolic Faith Church, Faith Tabernacle, Word of Faith, Kingdom Now, etc….

1998 11,000 Pentecostal denominations. Today, about 200 million worldwide, especially in the Third World.

AOG 1998 57 million.

What do all these groups share in common?

Experiential/emotional Christianity.

Eschatological focus. Discussion of end times is a MAJOR part of their preaching and teaching.

Emphasis: Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Whether this is a requirement for salvation (it is for some, and not for others) it is the thing they talk about the most.

“Fundamentalists.” (young earth creationists, very literal interpretation of the Bible, inerrancy of the Bible, tend to have very conservative rules of clothing, drinking, etc.)

Pentacostalism ≠ Charismatic. Charismatic is a broader term, applying to those who believe in modern miraculous gifts in general, including those in the denominations..

1960s and 70s, many in Protestantism and Catholicism began to accept Holy Spirit gifts as normative, but did not leave their denominations. Together with the Pentacostals, they form what is known as the Charismatic Movement.

As many as 400 million (¼ of all Christians)

History of Gifts of the Spirit/Speaking in Tongues

“In ancient times the practice of speaking in unintelligible languages during religious ecstasy was not unknown. From eleventh-century B.C. Egypt come reports of ecstatic speech, and later in the Greek world the prophetess of Delphi and the Sibylline oracle priestess spoke in unknown tongues. Amongst the Roman mystery religions, the Dionysian Cult was known for this practice. Hindu and other examples have been noted as well.

From this we know that glossolalia can be a general phenomenon created by religious excitation.

Some of the early church fathers mention miraculous gifts in the church. Irenaeus (d.c. 200) and Tertullian (d. 200), but speaking in tongues is virtually not mentioned at all. Chrysostom (d. 407) disapproved, and Augustine (d. 430) declared that the gift was only for New Testament times.

The Montanist movement of the late second century included prophetesses, claims of new revelation, speaking in tongues, and an ascetical and legalistic outlook; the movement was declared heretical by the official church and speaking in tongues seems to have been rare in the church after this time.

During the middle ages speaking in tongues were reported in monasteries of the Orthodox church.

In the seventeenth century it seems to have been practiced in France amongst the Huguenots (Protestants) and the Jansenists (pietistic Catholics).

In the nineteenth century glossolalia was practiced in America amongst the Shakers and Mormons.

What should our response be?

I. Doctrinal response. (the typical CoC response)

II. Emphasize the legitimate role of the Holy Spirit in Christianity. Allow ourselves to be influenced, at least to some extent, by these people to a more balanced Christianity.

I. Doctrinal response.

The miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit were given by the laying on of hands of an apostle, with a particular purpose in mind, which was to testify to the message of the Gospel.

Baptism of the Holy Spirit ≠ the one baptism of Ephesians 4:5 It is a one-time special event at Pentecost. “Wait in Jerusalem…. But in a few days, you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit Acts 1:5. (also Acts 10?

Hebrews 2:3-4 The gospel was testified to by signs, wonders and miracles. This was the purpose. This is a biblical pattern.

Acts 8:9-17 They had not yet received the Holy Spirit. Context: the miraculous gifts. Apostles went there to take care of this.

2 Tim 2:6 A gift given to Timothy when Paul laid on his hands.

1 Tim 4:14 The elders laid their hands of Timothy to give him a charge.

1 Cor 13:8-10. Where there are tongues, prophecies, etc… they will cease. When the perfect comes, the imperfect disappears.

Careful about using this as a proof-text, but…

Does Zechariah 13:1-6 prophesy an end to new prophecy?

The reason for miraculous gifts has ended

Do not over react.

God still works miracles. God still heals. God could even cause someone miraculously to know a language, for all I know, but what we do not have is people who, in themselves, possess personal miraculous gifts. We all say we believe in miracles, but, in practice, we seem to deny believing in God working miraculously (I am guilty of this!).

Not: I have this miraculous gift, but God worked a miracle. A very different thing.

Historical evidence. By the mid-second century the only groups with such miraculous gifts were decidedly non-mainstream groups.

Here is what it comes down to. Do we have modern-day revelation? I say no.

II. Our response should be to correctly emphasize the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

The Holy Spirit His Role in Our Lives

Questions to think about:

Who/what is the Holy Spirit?

What is His role in our lives?

Does the Holy Spirit speak to us? If so, how?

John 14:16-18

What do we see about the Holy Spirit here?

He is a counselor/comforter.

We are not left as orphans. It is about relationship. Jesus did not abandon his disciples. In fact, because he left and sent the Holy Spirit, we are more closely related to him.

John 16:5-7 It is a good thing that I am going. Having the Spirit live in us is better that having Jesus live near us. Wow!!!

How does that make you feel? All of us imagine how great it would be to have Jesus to talk to, listen to, be inspired by, etc.

Q: On a daily basis, how much to you think about the Holy Spirit?

Q: Do you pray to the Holy Spirit?

Q: Do you recognize/feel the Holy Spirit working in your life?

The GREATEST gift the Father has given us, after his Son is sending his Spirit.

A Little Background.

Alexander Campbell and Restoration Movement Rational Empiricism Scientific analysis of Scriptures.

Christianity Rational Holy Spirit irrational, unpredictable, emotional.

VERY suspicious of those who emphasized Holy Spirit

Campbell: The role of the Holy Spirit was to inspire the Word of God.

An obvious overreaction.

Us: We see what the Pentecostals do, and we over react.

God told me…. The Spirit is telling me….

We look at the scripture which strongly implies that these miraculous gifts were to edify the first century church and to testify to the Gospel message which was being newly revealed ((Hebrews 2:3-4) and we are nervous when we see people falsely claiming such gifts today.

Prophecy has ceased (Zech 13:1-6, 1 Cor 13:8)

The Result: We spent more time talking about what the Holy Spirit does NOT do than what he Does!!!”

Do not let what you oppose steal what is God’s gift for you. Do the Scriptures warn against overemphasizing the Holy Spirit (well… maybe in 1 Cor 13 or 1 Cor 14)

James Gitre: “Charismatic teachings have cast a long shadow on the theological landscape

The result of overreacting: a cold, rational Christianity.

Encouraging Facts about the Holy Spirit:

1. The Holy Spirit Lives in Us (which can seem bad some times…. Kind of like bringing your mom or dad on a date)

Acts 5:1-4 Lied to HS He must put up with and hang out around the sins we commit. This is an extremely intimate relationship. Keep a clean house!

Acts 5:29-32 HS is a witness to all we do. Imagine how realizing this on an everyday basis might help you.

2. Although it is true the HS empowers us (see below), his principle role is relational.

Phil 2:1 If there is any encouragement in Christ, if any consolation in his love, if any fellowship in the Spirit, if any affection and mercy… (also 2 Cor 3:13 fellowship in the Spirit)

It is about closeness and a relationship. That is why the Spirit lives in us. It is like a piece of heaven—a taste of the future. God is right there.

Illustration: “Footsteps” has nothing on this!!!!

3. He lives in us, but we can be more or less filled with the Spirit.

Acts 6:2-3 I don’t know about you, but I would love to be full of the Spirit.

1 Thess 5:16-19 Do not quench the Spirit.

Q: How might we quench the Spirit? (by keeping an impure house or by ignoring his promptings See point 4!)

4. The Holy Spirit can and will give us promptings and influence us.

Acts 8:29-31 HS orchestrated this entire situation. God will work through the Holy Spirit.

However, if the Spirit tells you to not serve this person or to not make this church meeting or to…. You can be sure it is not of the Spirit.

If the Spirit is telling you to share your faith with this person or to overcome such and such sin, or to stay away from a dangerous or tempting situation, OK.

5. The Holy Spirit helps us in our prayers (especially; in our emotions, our desires, our deepest needs—things words cannot express)

Romans 8:26-27 We should be aware of the Holy Spirit’s presence and role when we pray. Sometimes we need to stop talking. Meditate.

6. The Holy Spirit will help raise up leaders in the church and will influence the direction the church takes.

Acts 13:2-4 Set apart Barnabas and Saul. How did the Holy Spirit do this? I do not know.

(Acts 20:25-29 The Holy Spirit made these men overseers)

7. The Holy Spirit will help us to understand God’s word and his will. John 16:8-11

8. The Holy Spirit helps us to overcome sin.

John 16:8-11 Convict with regard to sin. We have help!

Romans 8:6-14 The Holy Spirit helps us to put sin to death. (Again, we see it is about a relationship we call God “abba”)

9. The Holy Spirit is a seal, a mark, a guarantee of our salvation. Romans 8:14-16 The Holy Spirit testifies that we are God’s children. We get to call God daddy!

Satan says: You are a loser. You are hopeless. You will never make it. We have a great advocate. The one speaking for us is more powerful than any.

Ephesians 1:13-14 A mark, a seal, a deposit, a guarantee. We can turn our back on God and drive the Holy Spirit away (Hebrews 10:26 f), but nothing else can take away our guarantee.

The goal of this lesson: Joy, Confidence and Knowledge that God is working in our lives in the Holy Spirit.

In summary: Let us

Be filled with the Spirit (Romans 8:14)

Serve God by the power of the Spirit (Romans 7:6)

Be led by the Spirit (Romans 8:14)

Keep in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:25)



Comments are closed.