Holy Spirit Baptism, Tongues, etc.


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.”

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5 thoughts on “Holy Spirit Baptism, Tongues, etc.

  1. Jeff Noble says:

    TJ,

    Wow. I appreciate your forthrightness in attempting to deal with this divisive issue. I value your friendship and love how you express your faith in all times and at all places.

    I too, would think that at this point, there is little convincing that is able to be done by those of us in different “tribes.”

    I would love to see more scriptural basis for what you described, more exegetical evidence.

    Paul says in the next verse, after saying that he speaks in tongues more than anyone… “Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue.”

    One of my thoughts is simply this: let’s not close ourselves off to God’s power, but let’s lay down what may cause division in our culture and press on to what brings unity and conversion to Christ.

    Romans 14.19-21 says, “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall.”

    Could we surmise from this teaching that tongues is a practice that causes brothers to stumble (and outsiders to stay away) and thus should be put aside for what is more fruitful? The thing about our freedom in Christ is that we all should willingly and lovingly lay aside and do away with practices and preferences that might cause confusion, division, or hindrances in the family of Christ.

    Paul implies that even praying in a tongue is “unfruitful” in 1 Corinthians 14.14-15 and urges us to also pray with our minds. In other words, don’t lose your thinking process. Later, right after he demands that we not forbid speaking in tongues, he shares an imperative with the Corinthians: “Everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.” (1 Cor 14.40)

    I think that as we follow the express guidelines of scripture and also seek unity, we should see tongues being used far less often in church where everyone speaks the same language and far more often on the mission field.

    Again, I thank you for your entry. I sincerely enjoying the dialogue and exchange of ideas.

  2. Mark W. says:

    TJ,

    Great post! I’m glad you left it open for comments. I’m also glad Jeff whipped out Romans 14, because that’s pretty clearly my basic response to this issue too.

    There is something you said in the post that has me quite curious and eager to reply. You wrote:

    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.”

    The question is, why not? I think this idea is very mistaken about:
    1) the nature of “intellect”,
    2) the other avenues that are open to us besides our God-given intellect,and
    3) the unconscious and unnecessary philosophical presuppositions upon which the above definition of “intellect” is based.

    Basically, I don’t think there’s any evidence that “supernatural” propostions are any less amenable to our intellectual understanding than any other claims, and the entire history of philosophical thought – since the ancient Greeks – attests to this.

    Since the first comments last week, I was already planning to post something about the radical “empiricism” Christians often associate with “intellect” these days, so you’ll get to hear my take in more depth whenever I get that post finished…soon though.

    Until then…sayonara!

  3. TJ says:

    Interesting enough that you mention Romans 14, because I have been thinking about it throughout this discussion. Jeff, I would never consider (neither would any other “tongue-talker” in their “right mind”) visiting your church and speaking or praying in tongues. It is safe to say, that when in someone’s house that find it offensive to participate in a particular thing, don’t do it – and don’t talk about it!

  4. Brad Launius says:

    TJ, I agree with your post about speaking in tongues and the gift of tongues. In Jeff’s comments, he plainly states that Paul writes, in Corinthians, to not forbid speaking in tongues. Paul’s writings also emphasize that disorderly tongues can create confusion. This is why he states that he would rather speak 5 words of his mind than ten thousand in tongues. Just merely speaking in tongues does NOTHING for those not baptized, except get their attention.

    If someone begins, speaking in an Oriental dialect in the middle of Wal-Mart, we would, as English speaking people, all turn and look. This is what God does through the person who is speaking in tongues. Then, an interpretation of those tongues, a completely different gift of the Holy Spirit, should follow.

    The disorderly use of these gifts are what can cause the division between those who have and have not been baptized.

    I appreciate all comments that have been posted in response to this and will check up on this page regularly.

  5. Jim says:

    If possible, I would like to know Brad’s definition of ‘baptized’. Thanks.

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