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From the Pastor:
I have made this statement in the past: "There is only one level of true commitment and that is the RADICAL LEVEL!" We must be serious enough about things of the Spirit to be effective Christians! This means putting God, and the things of God, over our own desires. Let's move forward, let's press to the Radical Level

Glossolalia in Pentecostalism


The pentecostal/charismatic movement has become a force within Protestantism of undeniably large proportions. Although it is often purposely overlooked, slighted, ridiculed or ignored by authors, religious researchers and leaders, the sheer numbers of the various statistics indicate that this element is not simply a passing religious fad. Emphasized in varying degrees according to particular persuasions, glossolalia, the phenomena of making sounds or speaking in a language not known to the speaker, is practically a universal within these groups. Though the other gifts of the Spirit, as listed in 1 Corinthians 12, are also often operative, glossolalia is a basic distinctive.

Because of its unique and seemingly strange behavioral influence, glossolalia has become most controversial within Protestantism, often dividing churches and groups of believers. The experience of speaking in tongues has been the focus of much mockery and derision. The church has broken into parties over this very issue. It must be admitted that there have been charlatans and those who have misused the act of speaking in tongues, but this cannot negate the purported reality of the experience. Indeed, there have been fakes within every movement.

The global statistics of charismatic/pentecostal groups prevent tongues speakers from being completely ignored. They haven't faded away and the numbers indicate an accelerated growth in adherents. For instance, in 1900, during the beginning of the revival of this experience, the total of all pentecostal/charismatic church members was 3,716,300, or 0.70% of the world’s Christian church members. By 1970, the membership in these groups had swelled to 71,997,670 or 6.4% of the world’s total. The numbers by 1988 revealed rapid increase to 332,658,240 or 21.4% of Christianity worldwide. The projected figures by the year 2000 are 562,526,000 or 28.6%. (1) Christianity is one of the world’s fastest growing religions. The figures lend support to the fact that within Christianity, the pentecostal/charismatic movement is one of the fastest growing elements. It is important to note that the figures do not indicate only classical pentecostal or independent charismatic churches. These statistics include renewal movements within mainline Protestant churches such as: Methodist, Baptist, Anglicans, Lutheran, etc. Interestingly, according to the “Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements”, the movement has penetrated deeply into mainline denominations. “During the period 1906-1950 many thousands of mainline clergy and hundreds of thousands of laity received pentecostal experiences and spoke in tongues, but many were ejected and later joined Pentecostal denominations. By 1987 the Renewal had penetrated every one of the Christian world’s 156 distinct ecclesiastical confessions, traditions, and families, with characteristics within every tradition.” (2) Hundreds of other statistics are available to emphasize the point that Pentecostal Protestantism is here to stay. Though controversial, glossolalia is an important aspect of this movement.

The largest and oldest Pentecostal denominations, the Assemblies of God and Church of God (Cleveland, TN), place a heavy importance upon glossolalia. The Church of God Declaration of Faith, statement nine says: “We believe in speaking with other tongues as the Spirit gives utterance and that it is the initial evidence of the baptism of the Holy Ghost.” (3) Likewise, the Assemblies of God has a similar confession in the Statement of Fundamental Truths, statements seven and eight: “All believers are entitled to and should ardently expect and earnestly seek the promise of the Father, the baptism in the Holy Ghost and fire, according to the command of our Lord Jesus Christ. This was the normal experience of all in the early Christian church. With it comes the enduement of power for life and service, the bestowment of the gifts and their uses in the work of the ministry...This experience is distinct from and subsequent to the experience of the new birth...With the baptism in the Holy Ghost come such experiences as an overflowing fullness of the Spirit, a deepened reverence for God, and intensified consecration to God and dedication to His work...The baptism of believers in the Holy Ghost is witnessed by the initial physical sign of speaking with other tongues as the Spirit of God gives them utterance. The speaking in tongues in this instance is the same in essence as the gift of tongues but different in purpose and use.” (4)

(It should be noted that both denominations list a multitude of scriptural references deleted here for the purpose of brevity.) Though both of these denominations, and many others within the tradition, are considered Protestant and evangelical, with membership in the National Evangelical Association, the feature setting them apart from mainline Protestant churches is, most noticeably, the practice of glossolalia.

The exercise of tongues differentiates Pentecostals from other Protestants, though it must be strongly emphasized that these groups remain true to the classical Protestant tradition. This is in contrast to the myth that all pentecostal/charismatic groups are strange, weird and handle snakes! Never has there been a classical Pentecostal denomination that has approved of snake handling. It is helpful to remember that there are fringe elements within any kind of religious movement. Noted religious and church historian, Dr. Charles W. Conn verifies: “There is absolutely no evidence during any period of the Pentecostal revival that the people ever considered themselves other than simple, orthodox Christian believers. Their experience was simply a deeper blessing in their Christian lives; it did not and does not supplant or supersede the gospel of Jesus Christ as the Son of God...Not only is the Pentecostal movement basically and thoroughly Christian but its theology is fundamental and its concepts are the historic concepts of the Christian faith.” (5)

The apostle Peter, in the book of Acts, quoted from the prophet Joel during the feast of Pentecost after the phenomenal outpouring of the Holy

Spirit. “And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my Spirit.” (Joel 2:28,29) This same passage, today, is offered as partial explanation of the supernatural events associated with pentecostal/charismatic groups. Jesus is said to have put his approval on tongues speaking in the 16th chapter of Mark’s gospel. “And these signs shall follow them that believe...they shall speak with new tongues...”.

The pentecostal/charismatic movement generally classifies glossolalia with a threefold purpose: 1. Proclamation of the works of God. 2. Edification of both the individual who speaks and the body who receives. 3. A sign to the unbeliever. Overall, tongues speaking, according to the tradition, signifies the truth of God and His Word.

One Pentecostal minister termed tongues “supernatural”. This man stated that “god can speak to natural man through the supernatural manifestation of tongues..not only are they a sign to the unbeliever but a sign to the believer, as it is one of the many ways God affirms His sovereignty in the believers life.” (6)

The classic argument against tongues, 1 Corinthians 13:10, “But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away”, has not yet been fulfilled. For clarification, many Protestant groups who do not believe in speaking with tongues, define the “that which is perfect” as the bible. Furthermore, our translation and interpretation efforts, of the bible, contain flaws. Therefore, it is not in perfect form. “That which is perfect” could refer to the actual coming kingdom of heaven. Jesus Christ was the perfect Lamb, the perfect sacrifice and had the perfect ministry. Obviously His kingdom will be perfect. Then, and only then, will tongues be done away with.

Many pentecostal/charismatics view the main purpose of tongues as a sign to them that “believe not”. Except in private, in prayer and praise to God, tongues should always be interpreted, in accordance with scripture. A person should not endeavor to enter some sort of mystical trance-like state in order to experience glossolalia. Rather, the believer should pray with the understanding (or in one’s own natural language) and also, at times, with the spirit (or in tongues), as admonished by the apostle Paul in scripture. The scripture states “do not forbid to speak with tongues”.

The individual who speaks in tongues is not moved upon as some robot might be manipulated, rather a very strong impression of the words will enter the mind and must be voiced by the person, to experience glossolalia. Harold L. Bare, Ph.D.,, writes “totally coherent, it was my choice to utter the flow of sounds which came to mind...I did and the joy was worth all of the searching and seeking.” (7) The scriptural admonition in 1 Corinthians must be remembered “the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.” Charles c. Ryrie, Ph.d., Th.D., writes: “no true prophet can claim a hearing on the ground that he is under a power over which he has not control.” (8)

In maintaining a case for tongues, the Word of God states that tongues, prophecy and knowledge will all vanish away, at some point. according to 1 Corinthians 14:8. All groups will concede that knowledge is still with us, therefore, in context with scripture, prophecy and tongues are still a reality for today. The pentecostal/charismatic movement affirms that tongues are a sign that should follow any believer in Jesus Christ who is unafraid and willing to probe deeper into an experience and relationship with the Spirit of God.

References

1. Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, Stanley M. Burgess and Gary B. McGee, editors, Zondervon Publishing House, Grand Rapids MI, 1988; pages 812-813.

2. Ibid, page 825.

3. Church of god Distinctives, Ray H. Hughes; Pathway Press, Cleveland, TN 1968; page 19.

4. Minutes of the 42nd Session of the General Council of the Assemblies of God, 1987; pages 99-100.

5. Why Men Go Back, Charles W. Conn; Pathway Press, Cleveland, TN, 1966; page 86.

6. Telephone interview, March 1994.

7. They Call Me Pentecostal, Harold L. Bare; Pathway Press, Cleveland, TN, 1993; page 86.

8. Ryrie Study Bible, NKJV, Charles c. Ryrie; Thomas Nelson Publishing, Nashville, TN, 1978.


 


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