Many have read the comments on another blog made by me and by others on Jeff Noble’s blog. A discussion (a verbal one, not a typed one) last week and the comments made on Jeff’s blog, then later on Mark Wegley’s blog made me understand how poor of a job we Pentecostals and Charismatics do explaining scripturally what we believe.
I will attempt now to humbly present to whoever is in this discussion and whoever would stumble across this post some information on what we believe. The purpose of this post is merely for information as to what those who call themselves “Pentecostals” believe when it comes to the subject of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and the gift of tongues.
Like as with Baptists, there are many different fellowships that claim to be Pentecostal. Many of these fellowships believe very differently from one another (again like many Baptist organizations).
What makes one be able to call themselves “Pentecostal” is the link to the experience noted in Acts 2. About every Christian I know agrees that something supernatural happened on the day of Pentecost. There were 120 people who, when they were in “one mind and one accord” (not a Honda), they all suddenly encountered a power like they never experienced before. That power enabled those early disciples of Christ to add thousands to the church daily. Pentecostals believe that this experience (after salvation) can happen today. This is probably the beginning of where others throw their hands up and say “hey wait a minute!”
The Assemblies of God has an excellent writing about what is taught in A/G churches about the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. This article does a much better job at explaining tongues and Holy Spirit Baptism than I ever could and has a really good “FAQ” section that answers a lot of questions I’ve seen recently.
Here’s a few of points I’d like to mention on the subject:
- Tongues is NOT the end result. Power to be a witness is the ultimate purpose for what I call the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Tongues should also never be the focus of the Pentecostal believer. The focus of this gift must be power to win souls!
- It is a huge shame, but I have noticed myself that there is a lack of balance in many Pentecostal believers. The experience of what is being “felt” should never take priority over the faith that comes by hearing the Word of God. We walk by faith and not by sight. It has been my observation that people who have this experience have less knowledge of the Word of God than people who don’t claim to have it.
- I read a comment by Jeff Noble on Mark Wegley’s blog that eluded to say that the Pentecostal organizations all have roots in the late 19th/early 20th century. While it may be true of this teaching and experience being revived during that time, we must know that history is filled with revivals that changed the course of Christianity as we know it. Luther, for example – Justification by faith was a damnable doctrine in his time. It began a split between Catholics and protestants down the line. To say that Pentecostal doctrine is “new” and is suspect because of it is the same as Catholics saying that they are the original and we are all wrong for deviating from the original (a whole ‘nuther blog post).
- We cannot merely interpret scripture on the basis of human intellect. Although intellect is a powerful tool, the human mind can never truly comprehend the supernatural. I believe that the interpretation of scripture that would direct one to interpret in a way that makes sense to the mind, and not give weight to the interpretation that allows for a supernatural explanation is questionable. Otherwise everything else we believe in is not as we believe (creation, the virgin birth, Biblical account of miracles, Jesus’ resurrection, the rapture, etc).
- Paul’s writing in I Corinthians was not to forbid people from speaking in tongues. It was instruction on how to use the gift wisely. Otherwise in 14:18 Paul wouldn’t be saying he talked in tongues more than anyone.
- Christianity is based on a belief of the supernatural. What may sound like gibberish to the human mind may sound like the most fluent heavenly language in the spirit. Paul talked about how speaking in tongues was unfruitful to the human understanding, not how tongues was simply unfruitful.
- The supernatural gift of tongues is something that is used in communication with the unbeliever (as noted in Acts 2 where people heard these believers speaking in their native tongue). I read a story a few days ago about someone who came from the Philippines to the Azusa mission and heard the rare dialect that one would have had to come from the Philippines to speak it. Another instance comes to mind where recently a group of A/G teens from Kentucky went on a missions trip (I cannot remember where) and a teenager from that country blessed them with a beautiful exhortation in English. The parents thought she was speaking in tongues – and she was – the English tongue.
- It is also something that, although sounding like “gibberish” to the human mind, can be interpreted. Again, we’re dealing with the supernatural here. I can’t count the times where, in a service or prayer meeting someone would burst out in a “message” in tongues; not much longer after that I would feel that familiar tugging at my heart (not unlike the one most of us experienced when when we answered the call to salvation) and would know what the interpretation would be. Not too long after that someone else will speak out that same interpretation.
- It was stated by someone (can’t remember who, and I’m ready to finish this thing, so I don’t really want to look it up!) something to the effect of being bothered by some saying they had more of God than they. I have this to say to that statement: You can have all of the presence and power of God you want – you are the only one who can keep yourself from rising to new levels in God. Should one allow a fear of an emotional response or of a manifestation of God’s presence keep them from going higher?
It is unfortunate, but as many of my Baptist friends would agree, many pentecostals do not exercise responsibility in the usage of tongues. I have a right to free speech, but if I were to go into Mark Wegley’s classroom at UAM and scream “FIRE!!!” and there was no fire, that would be irresponsible (and would probably get me arrested). In relation to this subject, for me to send a group of teenagers to See You At The Pole and instruct them to pray loudly in tongues, it would be just as irresponsible. Not because they should be ashamed of tongues, but because it would distract those who have been taught (erroneously, I believe) against tongues.
I welcome your comments on this. My goal here is to not convince anyone reading this to seek after what is described as the Baptism of the Holy Spirit or to argue. I hope this has been as clear as I intended it to be. This subject shouldn’t be a source of division. It would be wise for us all to begin some posts with some ideas on how we can reach the lost (not the already saved). — Oh yeah! Jim’s already doing that on his blog with the “organic quotes.”