Christmas, Pastoral Letter, Spiritual Gifts — December 22, 2022 at 4:47 am

Pastoral Letter: Understanding The Gifts Of The Holy Spirit – Part Seven

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Understanding The Spiritual Gifts. Part 7A HISTORICAL SURVEY OF TONGUE-SPEAKING (GLOSSOLALIA) CHURCH HISTORY

As indicated in the last letter, this segment is indebted to Dr. Robert Gromacki’s book, The Modern Tongues Movement.

THE POST APOSTOLIC FATHERS TO THE NICENE PERIOD (100-325 AD)

It seems appropriate to begin this survey with a sincere apology to the readers who may not be familiar with or have background in Church history or Historical theology. This is what the period covered by this survey is about. The Post apostolic period began immediately following the demise of the last apostle of Christ. The Nicene is a reference to the Council of Nicea 325 AD.

The leaders of the church who succeeded the apostles are referred to as Church fathers. Some of these fathers, like Polycarp of Smyrna and Ignatius of Antioch, not only had personal acquaintance with the apostles, but were tutored by them. Much of the troves of their writings and letters have been preserved. These writings contain a lot of their instructions and admonitions for their parishioners. Research into these troves has not turned out conspicuous or direct references to tongue-speaking. One of the most prolific of them was Ignatius.  He wrote to several churches as he journeyed to Rome for execution. Another was Clement of Rome. He was a contemporary of Ignatius. His letter, First Clement, which was addressed to the Corinthian church has no mention of speaking in tongues. More interesting is that Clement’s letter quoted from 1 Corinthians among other New Testament epistles.

Justin Martyr (110-165AD). He was known as a prominent apologist of the second century church. In his Dialogue with Trypho, he wrote, “For the prophetic gifts remain with us, even to the present time. And hence you ought to understand that the gifts formerly among your nation have been transferred to us.”   But he later gave clarification that he was referring to the Old Testament prophetic gifts. This is made obvious by the fact that his addressee, Trypho, was a Jew.

Irenaeus (120-202 AD). He studied under Polycarp, who himself was discipled by the apostle John. In his commentary on 1 Corinthians 2:6, he states, “In like manner we do also hear many brethren in the church, who possess prophetic gifts, and who through the Spirit speak all kinds of languages and bring to light for the general benefit the hidden things of men and declare the mysteries of God.”

It needs to be reckoned that Irenaeus’s reference to the manifestation of speaking in “all kinds of languages”, undoubtedly glossolalia, is not as an eyewitness, but a secondhand report. Secondly, it is likely that the source of his report might have been associated with Montanism.

Montanus (126-180 AD) Montanus had earlier been introduced in the part 5 of this series. In the middle of the second century, while still a new convert to Christianity, he began to preach that all the spiritual gifts and apostolic power should be restored to the church and among these gifts, speaking in tongues. His aberrant view soon led him to proclaim himself as the paraclete promised by Christ to His followers.Jn.14:26. He was joined by two female followers who went by the title “prophetess” Montanus’s teaching was rejected by the church and his movement was declared heretical and excommunicated. As stated in an earlier Pastoral letter, Montanism has a seminal influence on the development of the earlier and later Pentecostal Movement. It is also an irony of history that some modern tongues advocates appeal to Montanus as their precursor. Montanus’s erroneous views made him the most controversial teacher of the second century.

Tertullian (160-220 AD) This renowned church father is the most prominent convert of Montanism. This is another irony of history that such a stalwart of orthodoxy who coined the term “Trinity” and the famous quote, “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” would succumb to the aberrant views of Montanism. In his description of spiritual gifts, he wrote, “For, seeing that we acknowledge spiritual gifts (charismata), we too have merited the attainment of the prophetic gift…. “He then went on and described a woman who had gifts of revelation, ecstatic visions, talks with angels and with God, gifts of healing, and understanding of men’s hearts. Tertulian later abandoned Montanism and reconciled himself with the Catholic church at Carthage.

Origen (185-254 AD) He was the great teacher and theologian of his day. He was the head of the famous Catechetical school of Alexandria. During his time, this statement by a pagan, Celsus, had been interpreted to mean that speaking in tongues was operational. “To these promises are added strange, fanatical, and quite unintelligible words, of which no rational person can find meaning at all.”  Celsus was writing to attack the church. In his refutation, Origen, who understood the context of Celsus’ attack, responded. “…but we have according to our ability, in our commentaries on Isaiah, Ezekiel, and some of the minor prophets, explained literally and in detail what he calls ‘those fanatical and utterly unintelligible passages.”

THE NICENE AND POST-NICENE PERIOD (311-600 AD)

This period covers the era immediately preceding the Nicene Council and into the Dark ages. The church experienced a paradox during this time. It was the era of Constantine which ended the Imperial persecution and the church had reprieve, gained authority, and amassed wealth. But it was also the era in which moral sewage and corruption eroded the church. Pagans and charlatans who sought fame became “converts “of the church.

Pachomius (292-348 AD) He was an ascetic monk who founded his monastic order in Egypt. He and his followers practiced a strict form of asceticism. Tradition attributes him with several miracles and the gift of speaking in tongues. Unusual events attributed to him also include perfect dominion over nature, treading on dangerous snakes and reptiles and crossing the Nile on the back of crocodiles. These bogus “miracles” seem very incredulous and lacking in authenticity.

John Chrysostom (345-407 AD). Chrysostom (Golden mouth) was not his last name, but so named because of his articulate and expositional preaching. He was a prolific author and next Augustine; he is the most quoted of the church fathers. He wrote several commentaries on the books of the Bible. In his commentary on spiritual gifts based upon 1 Corinthians 12:1-2, he writes, “This whole place is obscure: but the obscurity is produced by our ignorance of the facts referred to and by their cessation, being such as then used to occur but now no longer take place.” This “prince” of preachers and great expositor suggests that certain gifts were no longer operative in his day.

Augustine (354-430 AD) He was the bishop of Hippo in North Africa. He was a prolific writer and the most quoted church father. His writings had enormous influence on both the Catholic church and Protestantism. He defended the church against many heresies and doctrinal errors of his day. In one of his debates against a heretic group, he states that the Holy Spirit is received without speaking in tongues, but with the implantation of divine love. His commentary on the temporary nature of speaking in tongues as a sign gift is worth presenting in its entirety. In the earliest of time, “the Holy Ghost fell upon them that believed: and they spoke in tongues” which they had not learned, “as the Spirit gave them utterance.” These were signs adapted to the time. For there behooved to be that betokening of the Holy Spirit in all tongues, to shew that the Gospel of God was to run through all tongues over the whole earth. That thing was a betokening and it passed away. “

THE MIDDLE AGES TO THE REFORMATION (590-1517 AD)

As has been noted earlier, the Age of Emperor Constance brought not only triumph for the church, but also tragedy. The tragedy worsened with the fall of the Western Roman empire to the vandals in 410 AD. While the church in the West did not collapse with the empire, but on the contrary, it grew in influence as the bishops and the archbishops accrued more wealth and power for the church and for themselves. The practice of buying bishoprics and clerical offices (Simony) began to spread and with this, doctrinal errors and outrageous moral lapses gradually became norms in the church and society. This unfortunate development which became dominant led into labeling this period of history as the dark ages. The Roman Catholic Church which had absolute sway over Christendom was dominated by so many religious practitioners who portrayed themselves as seers, prophets, and mystics. These people brought innumerable doctrinal errors and practices.

Hildegard (1098-1179 AD) A woman who regarded herself as a prophetess and seeress claimed to receive so many visions. She made utterances which she recorded in a language that no one could decipher. This woman who was regarded as mystic, suffered many diseases and debilitating illnesses, and was attributed with miracles and speaking in tongues. Visions of the heavenly realm were also attributed to her, especially at the time that she suffered bouts of illnesses.

Vincent Ferrer (1350-1419 AD) This is another mystic, but from the educated class. He was a Dominican monk. He claimed to have seen several appearances of Christ accompanied by St. Dominic and St. Francis. This experience led to many miraculous healings of diseases and illnesses. He had extensive preaching and teaching tours among diverse peoples with different languages without an interpreter. Because of this, the gift of speaking in tongues was attributed to him.

THE REFORMATION (1517-1648 AD)- The Reformation was perhaps the greatest watershed in the history of Western civilization. It was the era that shined the light into the doctrinal and moral darkness that had engulfed the universal church for over a millennium. It was the era that brought back the gospel to pit against the religious superstition which had dominated the religious landscape going back to the Augustan Age. The Reformation coincided with the Age of Renaissance which revived the study of the classics like Hebrew and Greek languages as well as other classical writings and literature. The Reformation was the era of the learned reformer, Martin Luther, and others such as John Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli, and John Knox-all great reformers.

Martin Luther (1483-1546 AD) He was the most eminent of all the reformers as he was the chief catalyst who spearheaded the movement. Due to his fluency in Latin, German, and other languages, one historiographer, Erich Sauer, ascribed to him the gift of speaking in tongues. A former leader of the Assemblies of God

Mission, Thomas Zimmerman, based on this, had concluded that Luther spoke in tongues. A claim that is not found or alluded to by Luther anywhere in any of his tomes.  Carl Brumback, a popular tongues advocate and writer, seems to have recognized the fluidity of Sauer and Zimmerman’s position and dissented by stating, “We have not been able to determine the author’s conception of the nature of tongues, and therefore we would hesitate to enter this quotation as conclusive evidence.”

John Calvin (1509-1564 AD)- Of all the reformers, none said or wrote about the Holy Spirit and His gifts as John Calvin. His outspokenness about the third Person of the Godhead and His gifts are reflected in his commentaries especially on Romans, 1 Corinthians and Ephesians.  However, while he is outspoken on the gifts in general, his views are expressed in ambivalent terms. He makes a distinction between what he describes as “ordinary gifts of life” and “miraculous graces”. He stated that the former were to continue perpetually in the church, whilst the latter were used by Christ to render illustrious His gospel. In his commentary on 1 Corinthians 12:28-31, he explains, “As far as the verse before us is concerned, we must note that some of the offices to which Paul is referring, are permanent, while others are temporary. The permanent offices are those which are necessary for the government of the church. The temporary ones, on the other hand, are the ones used for the confirmation of the gospel which after they were needed ceased to be operative.” Calvin, however, also expressed the conviction that temporary apostolic gifts could at divine will be made operative for special purposes. 

POST REFORMATION TO 1648 ADJust as the year 1517 AD was a historic milestone, so also was 1648 AD. However, the prominence of the latter is not comparable to the former, although both share a common significance. The year 1517 AD was the official beginning of the Reformation, and 1648 AD was the official end of the wars of the Reformation on the European continent. The Peace of Westphalia signed on October 24 brought to an end the religious wars resulting from the  Reformation Between the German princes about which religion controls a particular region. The Holy Roman Empire was forced to recognize the right of the German princes who had sided with the protestant Reformation to govern their territories according to their religious affiliation.  This period is also referred to as the beginning of modern European history. Doctrinally, it was a period that was marked by a departure from the orthodoxy established during the Reformation and splits from the Roman Catholic church.

THE CEVENAL PROPHETS– During the persecution of the Huguenots, a protestant community in Southern France, it was alleged that there was an outbreak of speaking in tongues among them. But the most outstanding of this is what happened in the city of Cevennes. It could be called “children’s prophetism.” of sorts. It began when a ten-year-old girl who ran away from home because of religious persecution and had witnessed soldiers execute women and children in a church service, she suddenly burst out in ecstatic utterances. Soon children all over Cevennes joined and began to prophesy. It was recorded that children as young as three years old were exhorting people to stand courageous in the face of the on-going persecution. Adults later caught the same spirit and began to speak in different languages that they themselves did not understand.

They sometimes went into a frenzy, falling backwards with their bodies stretched full length on the ground and others in seeming contortions. And when these episodes were over, they began to prophesy condemning the Roman Catholic church.

The Jansenists- This was a renewal movement within the Catholic church started by Cornelius Jansen’ They were more influential in France. They adhered to Augustine’s doctrine of grace. Although a renewal movement, they believed that there is no salvation outside of the Roman Catholic church. Their teachings were rejected by the Roman Catholic church because they seemed to be influenced by Calvinism. Speaking in tongues was attributed to some of their members

The Quakers-( Society of Friends) A movement started by Geoge Fox (1624-1691 AD) Mr. Fox wanted to fan up the embers of a dying Christianity in England. He emphasized the “inner light” which he taught was in every man. They practiced both quietism and emotionalism in their service. They waited quietly until someone was extemporaneously moved to bring a message. Sometimes the person who was so moved also experienced ecstatic utterances.

The Shakers-This is an aberrant group that sprang out of the Quaker revival in the mid eighteenth century. Their leader was known as “Mother” Ann Lee (1736-1784 AD). The movement was infamous for its multiple false teachings about God, angels, and spirits. They view all three to exist in both male female genders. The second coming of Christ was fulfilled by Mother Ann. And Christ’s kingdom on earth began with the Shaker church. Mother Lee claimed that she could speak in seventy-two languages. In their service, they claim to sing hymns written in unintelligible words and strange languages. Some of their members occasionally make ecstatic utterances during the service.

Irvinism– The account of this period would be incomplete without the story of Edward Irving (1792-1834 AD). Irving started as a minister of the Scotch presbyterian church. He had a very successful ministry until he began to deviate into eschatology. He soon developed strange views about the sacraments and then speaking in tongues to restore apostolic power in the church. He also developed a Christological view that was found to be out of sync with orthodoxy.  His zeal for charismatic reforms led him to introduce other unorthodox liturgical practices which resulted in his being censured and eventually defrocked by the presbytery. Upon expulsion, Irving formed a congregation that he called Catholic Apostolic Church. This group which later became known as Irvingites sought to restore the position of the twelve apostles and embraced Roman Catholic dogmas like transubstantiation, extreme unction, candles, incense, and holy water. The irony of Irving’s saga is that he was later relegated to a minority role because he himself never manifested any of the sign gifts which he advocated.

MORMONISM– This is a religious cult started by Joseph Smith (1805-1844 AD) The doctrines of Mormonism are well known to be very distant from the teaching of mainline orthodoxy. Mormonism denies the doctrine of salvation by grace, the deity of Christ, the absolute authority of the Bible and the reality of hell. But its seventh Article of Faith states, “We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healings, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.”

THE PRECURSORS OF THE MODERN PENTECOSTAL/CHARISMATIC MOVEMENT

Although a brief overview of the modern Pentecostal and charismatic movement was discussed in the last Letter, it may be helpful to provide a little bit more insight. What has become known today as the Pentecostal/Charismatic Movement did not begin in a vacuum nor does it have an original history of its own. It is an evolvement from the eclecticism that characterized Old Methodism and the various Holiness groups that deserted it.  Its earliest roots can be traced all the way back to the Methodist Movement of John Wesley. Wesley, who should be appropriately called the “grand-father” of Pentecostalism, would hardly have understood the movement nor agreed with the movement in its contemporary stance. Wesley’s emphasis was on inner perfection and sanctification. He rarely mentioned speaking in tongues in his voluminous writings and preaching. Moreover, no biography of Wesley mentioned that he ever spoke in tongues. The Early Methodist movement and its progeny the various branches of the Holiness movement laid more emphasis on what they termed as “Christian perfection” and “Second Blessing” (Second work of grace). In Wesley’s view, these doctrines have everything to do with the pursuit of holiness and a “perfect Christian life and nothing absolutely with the exercise of Spiritual gifts, much more speaking in tongues.

THE SALVATION ARMY

One of the greatest figures that emerged out of the Methodist movement was General William Booth (1829-1912 AD). He founded the Salvation Army in 1865 as an evangelistic outreach to the poverty-stricken neighborhoods of London. While evangelism was its focus, it still did not depart from the doctrinal moorings of its progenitor. The Salvation Army handbook of Doctrine discusses many aspects of Christian Doctrine including the Holy Spirit, but there is no mention of speaking in tongues. There is no known record of General Booth himself speaking in tongues nor his emphasis on it.

CHRISTIAN AND MISSIONARY ALLIANCE

Another spiritual giant that was influenced by the Holiness movement was Albert Benjamin Simpson (A B Simpson 1843-1919 AD). He became part of the holiness movement, and in 1887 organized a group which was later called the Christian and Missionary Alliance Mission. The group focused mainly on foreign missions, divine healing, and sanctification.  While Simpson admired the fervent spirit of the Holiness Movement, he disagreed with the Pentecostal emphasis on speaking in tongues as “initial evidence of baptism with the Holy Spirit” which had then begun to creep in and be disruptive. As one of the leaders of the multiple denominations that were then known as the Holiness movement, he issued this clarification:

We believe the scriptural teaching to be that the gift of tongues is one of the gifts of the Spirit, and that it may be present in the normal Christian assembly, as a sovereign bestowal of the Holy Spirit upon such as He wills. We do not believe that there is any scriptural evidence for the teaching that speaking in tongues is the sign of having been filled with the Holy Spirit, nor do we believe that it is the plan of God that all Christians should possess the gift of tongues. This gift is one of many gifts and is given to some for the benefit of all. The attitude toward the gift of tongues held by pastor and the people should be “Seek not, forbid not.” This would be the wisdom of this hour.

CHARLES GRANDISON FINNEY (1792-1875 AD). A major single individual that influenced the Holiness movement was Charles Finney. He practiced as a lawyer before becoming an evangelist. His revivalist work is well documented in the areas of New York and the Northeastern United States. He later moved to join the faculty of Oberlin College in Ohio. Finney taught that entire sanctification was possible in this life. His revival sermons and writings were filled with perfectionist thoughts. He experienced what he described as “baptism of the Holy Spirit,” but never made a claim of speaking in tongues then or after. However, after the pattern of his “baptism of the Spirit” he maintained that one could attain a” permanent sanctification” through that experience.

THE RIFT AND RESPONSE BY THE METHODIST CHURCH

The Methodist Movement might have initially applauded the birthing of many denominations which became part of the Holiness movement. But it did not remain apathetic when many controversies which gradually eroded the movement became uncontrollable without any end in sight. In 1878, the following statement representing the position of the leaders of the Methodist Church appeared in the Methodist Quarterly Review:

The holiness association, the holiness periodical, the holiness prayer meeting, the holiness preacher, are all novelties. They are not Wesleyan. We believe that a living Wesley would never admit them into the Methodist system. 

The leaders of the Methodist Church were not only saddened at the fractiousness that has characterized the movement over the issue of speaking in tongues. But they were also troubled by the inroad that the squabbles had made into the Methodist Church itself. They did not hesitate to express their rejection of this unwanted development. In 1885, the North Georgia Conference of the Methodist Church published its rejection in the Georgia Wesleyan Advocate:

They have changed the name of our meetings, substituting Holiness for Methodist. They preach a different doctrine…., they sing different songs; they patronize and circulate a different literature; they have adopted radically different words of worship.

In 1894, the general conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South issued a more castigating denunciation of the emerging Pentecostal movement.

But there has sprung up among us a party with holiness as a watchword; they have holiness associations, holiness meetings, holiness preachers, holiness evangelists, and holiness property….We do not question the sincerity and zeal of these brethren; we desire the church to profit  by their earnest preaching and godly example; but we deplore their teaching and methods in so far as they claim a monopoly of the experience, practice, and advocacy of holiness, and separate themselves from the body of ministers and disciples.

With this total disavowal of what it considered strange radicalism, the Methodist forbade anyone associated with the Pentecostal movement from preaching in their pulpit or locality. And the evangelists and preachers within the Methodist Church were scrutinized for their doctrinal views before being allowed to go on preaching circuits.

These additional insights make it evident that the modern Pentecostal/Charismatic movement is a departure and a far-cry from its roots and forebears. It is rather spawned by the unguarded zealotry of leaders like Charles Parham, who without any theological education sought for leadership and training of leaders in the church. It is a common knowledge that most of the leaders of the early Pentecostal Movement had but only a minimal education and without any formal theological training. With this background of the history of the Pentecostal movement, the next step now is to present an evaluation of the Spiritual gift of speaking in tongues.

THE EVALUATION OF THE SPIRITUAL GIFT OF SPEAKING IN TONGUES

As this survey has shown, the gift of speaking in tongues has a long-checkered history. It is a phenomenon that has been known and practiced among peoples, cultures and religions that antedate Christianity. However, as has been earlier stated, the practices that antedate Christianity are not the same or comparable to the sign gift of speaking in tongues which was divinely bestowed on the church beginning on the day of Pentecost. The speaking in tongues that were practiced in pagan cultures and non-Christian religions were psychological, psychosomatic, or demonic. But genuine speaking in tongues as demonstrated in the book of Acts is totally a work of the Holy Spirit.

There is no record of a clear and genuine manifestation of this gift in the post-apostolic period. Records that exist are tainted with flaws and arguments of their authenticity or those who claimed to manifest the gift. Such individuals as Montanus and Pachomius turned out to be heretical. In the Middle Ages, the Roman Catholic monks and “saints” who made such claims cannot be relied upon due to the misconception and superstition that pervaded the Church at the time. Post-Reformation Europe and the religious renewal that followed did not record any evidence of speaking in tongues as a factor. The different groups which emerged during the post-Reformation era as tongue speakers cannot be trusted due to their heretical baggage and backgrounds.

It is no mystery that the Pentecostal movement from inception up to the present has been hung up on the doctrine of speaking in tongues. The roots of the movement itself had always been troubled and unsettled on the doctrines of holiness and sanctification. But no doctrine has caused more discord and disharmony than speaking in tongues after the Holiness movement emerged out of the Old Methodist movement. The lack of proper understanding of the meaning and the doctrine of sanctification had been the underlying cause of the confusion and misinterpretation and application of this doctrine. In addition, their attributing what they termed “baptism of the Holy Spirit” as the “third work of grace” accompanied with an initial evidence of speaking in tongues. This is a position that is not deduced from a sound biblical exegesis, but the opinions and subjective experiences of their various leaders. The doctrine of speaking in tongues was an unsettled matter among the leaders of the Holiness movement and later resulted in several splits and formation of new and different holiness denominations. For the most part, the record of these disputes lack evidence of appeal to the Scriptures, but the varying opinions of the leaders, none of whom had a formal theological training or knowledge of Biblical languages. In the area of doctrine, no leader of the Holiness movement or the Old Pentecostal movement played a bigger role than Benjamin Hardin Irwin (1854-1926 AD). He was the founder of the Fire Baptized movement which later became a denomination. He aggressively propagated the view of “several baptisms of the Holy Spirit” and the position on speaking in tongues as the evidence of that baptism. Charles Parham, who taught this view to his students at Bethel school in Kansas, was himself for a time, a follower of Irwin’s Fire Baptized movement. Irwin’s views were disputed and rejected by his contemporaries. Irwin later made a shipwreck of the faith when he confessed to an unspecified “open and gross sin”. He was removed not only as the leader but made to resign his membership from the movement that he started.

To get a good picture of the shaky theological root and instability of the Pentecostal movement and its views on speaking in tongues, the following remark from a highly respected Pentecostal historian-scholar, Dr. Vinson Synan, paints that picture. “In a social, doctrinal, and intellectual sense, the Fire-Baptized Holiness Church was a direct precursor of the Modern Pentecostal movement in North America.” Dr Synan was one of the founders of the Society for Pentecostal Studies (SPS) and dean emeritus of the school of Divinity at Regent University, Virginia Beach, VA. There is no doubt that the shadows of its forebears are still hovering over the Modern Pentecostal/Charismatic movement.

THE BIBLICAL PICTURE AND CONCLUSION

The book of Acts presents three examples which serve as the true model and purpose for speaking in tongues. Acts 2:4-11; 10:44-48; 19:1-7. In all three instances, speaking in tongues is shown to be a clear known and understood language. This view was also maintained in early Pentecostalism. It was claimed that the first modern tongue-speaker, Agnes Ozman spoke in Chinese dialects. And that following the Azusa Street Revival, people have spoken in more than twenty-one different languages including French, German, Swedish, Bohemia, Chinese, Japanese, Hungarian, Bulgarian, Russian et cetera. It was a common understanding that Charles Parham discouraged those going as overseas missionaries from learning foreign languages because “the baptism of the Spirit “would teach them the languages. The so-called “unknown tongues” in 1 Corinthians 14 is an unwarranted interpolation not found in the Greek text hence in italics and omitted in many modern Bible versions. It is a later development of the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement. “Tongues” is also shown as a sign gift and the purpose of its use in each given situation. In the former, it involved languages understood by all present that no interpreter was needed. In the latter, it was a sign to the unbelievers present on the day of Pentecost that the disciples’ message was divinely inspired. In the house of Cornelius, it was a sign to the Jews present that God has included the Gentiles in the church. And in Ephesus, it was a sign to the former disciples of John the Baptist that they have become a part of the New dispensation. A Biblical and proper understanding of speaking in tongues can be reasonably understood within this context.

It should come as no surprise that the controversy about speaking in tongues erupted in the Corinthian church. A church known for scandals and misdeeds as suing each other in the law court, ignoring an open sin of incest, divisions, and strife. It was unlikely that speaking in tongues was peculiar to the Corinthian Church. But because of its carnality, it was the only church where the gift was misused, misunderstood, and abused.  The book of Acts presents speaking in tongues as a known language and a sign gift, given for an expressed purpose during the transitional period of the establishment of the church. Due to the confusion and misunderstanding in the Corinthian Church, Paul gave further teaching in 1 Corinthians 14. In his instruction, Paul gave clear guidelines that should be followed whenever speaking in tongues is exercised in the public gathering of believers. These are listed in verses 26-40.

  1. Public tongue-speaking is mainly for the benefit and buildup of the church.v.26.
  2. Only two or three persons are to speak in tongues and in turns. V.27,30.
  3. Tongues are to be spoken only when there is an interpreter.v.27,28.
  4. Discerning people were to evaluate the utterance as to its validity.V.29.
  5. Women were strictly forbidden from speaking. V.34.
  6. Speaking in tongues was not disallowed but occupies a lower place than prophecy.V.39.
  7. A reverential decorum should be maintained during public gathering.V.40.

Hardly does one find a Pentecostal/Charismatic gathering where these guidelines are followed. The failure to abide by these apostolic guidelines may also be a “tell-tale” sign on the gift being exhibited and its practitioners.

In addition to the above guidelines, Paul stipulated that all believers are not and do not speak in tongues. 1 Cor.12:30. Again, the insistence on speaking in tongues as an initial evidence of “baptism of the Holy Spirit” crashes on this rhetorical question. No creed, dogma or the subjective experience of any church or individual can override one single statement of the Scripture.

Finally, while speaking in tongues as a sign gift may have ceased along with other temporary gifts, and therefore not normative today, it should not be concluded that it cannot be divinely recalled by a Sovereign God at His will and purpose.

AN IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT

A decision was recently made to abruptly end the series on Understanding the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. The reason being that the Pastoral Letter has unintentionally, as demonstrated by the present letter, and the recent preceding ones, veered away from its goal and intent. A pastoral Letter is not an academic treatise addressed to theologians and Bible scholars. It is a teaching missive meant for the laity. It is a forum for instruction which is in consonant with the interest and common understanding of lay people. Consequently, this would be the last of this series. However, ending this series at this time does not mean a total abandoning of the discourse. If enough interest is expressed, the discourse will resume, but on a different platform yet to be determined.  Hearty apology is hereby tendered to the majority lay people who have been deprived for some time of what they formerly looked forward to as an additional source of spiritual nourishment.  Appreciation is also due to the few who shared the benefits they derived from an in-depth look at such a difficult and complex study. Perhaps we will continue the journey again.

If you don’t hear from me again until the New year, MERRY CHRISTMAS, AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

SOLI DEO GLORIA= TO GOD BE THE GLORY

Author

  • Rev. Joseph Ezeigbo

    Rev Joseph Ezeigbo studied at Grace Collage and Grace Theological Seminary, both in Winona Lake, IN, where he obtained his undergraduate and graduate degrees respectively. He also did some Postgraduate studies at Liberty University and Liberty Theological Seminary, Lynchburg, VA. He is the coordinator, African Missionary Outreach. Rev Ezeigbo is the currently Vice Chairman and Prayer and Renewal Facilitator ECWA USA. He has also served as Secretary and Chairman of ECWA USA DCC. Rev Ezeigbo is an advocate for prayer for the Muslim World and International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, a Bible teacher for ECWA MD and Researcher - Church History and Theology.

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