If you just joined us for this series, please read Part I before you go further.
Here is some historical groundwork to set the stage for the rest of the series:
* The idea that the baptism of the Spirit is a second work of grace seems to have been initially put forth by Wesley and his followers. They tied the experience to entire sanctification (holiness).
* R.A. Torrey was a great and dear servant of the Lord. He was a congregational minister who graduated from Yale and joined D.L. Moody in Chicago. He became the superintendent of the new bible school there. In 1895, he wrote a book that popularized the idea that the baptism of the Spirit is subsequent to regeneration (new birth). He taught that it gives a person power to witness and serve, it is received by prayer, renouncing sin, and exercising faith. (The book was called The Baptism with the Holy Spirit.)
* The Welsh revival of 1904-1905 produced many miraculous signs and conversions (reportedly 100,000 conversions). But it deteriorated by counterfeit spiritual experiences.
* The Azusa street revival of 1906 in L.A., California gave birth to the Pentecostal movement. Pentecostalism brought a certain vitality back to the church with passionate praise, worship, and the anticipation for God to do supernatural things. But it was also born with certain birth defects. One of them is a tendency to exaggerate healings and miracles. Another is the pressure to keep the supernatural going, which tends to produce excesses and counterfeits (people start “faking it” to keep it going). Another is to put the Holy Spirit and His gifts on the throne and lose Jesus Christ in the temple. These defects came in at the very outset of the movement, and they have shaped the culture and DNA of Pentecostalism till this day. You can find documentation for all of this in Frank Bartleman’s book about Azusa, mentioned in yesterday’s post.
* The early Pentecostals took Torrey’s teachings and asserted that tongues was the “initial evidence” of the baptism of the Spirit. This is the classic Pentecostal position. A case can be made for this by cutting and pasting certain verses together, but there are problems with it. The entire story of the NT church does not support it. It doesn’t hold up when we interpret the book of Acts in light of the Gospels and the Epistles as we should:
* Paul made clear that not all believers speak in tongues (1 Cor. 12:30-31). Pentecostals say this text is speaking of a different kind of tongues. But that’s special pleading as there’s no hard evidence to suggest this. In order for the Pentecostal view of the baptism of the Spirit to work, you have to create two different kinds of tongues. Without it, the doctrine falls apart.
* There is no indication that the 3,000 who were saved on the day of Pentecost spoke in tongues. Either all or some of the 120 did in the upper room; we cannot be sure how many, though.
* There is no indication that people normally spoke in tongues after they received the Spirit in most of the cases throughout the book of Acts. Example: There’s no record of it in the churches Paul planted throughout Galatia and Greece, both of which are recorded in Acts. There’s no indication of it in the churches that the apostles raised up all throughout Palestine. Nor is there any mention of it in the church in Antioch, when it began.
* There are only THREE instances of people receiving the Spirit and then speaking in tongues: Acts 2 (some or all of the 120 in Jerusalem); Acts 10 (a small group in Caesaria made up of Cornelius, his close friends, and his relatives); Acts 19 (twelve men in Ephesus, though the text doesn’t say that they all spoke in tongues. Some may have prophesied rather than spoke in tongues).
Take note: Only three (3) instances in the entire book of Acts. Some have assumed that the Samaritans spoke in tongues when the gospel reached them. This may be true. So we can add a fourth based on this assumption. Taking the entire book of Acts as a whole, however, we can say that speaking in tongues when receiving the Spirit does not appear to be a normative experience as the Pentecostals claim.
We will examine these four occasions in detail in the next installment of the series.
Consider the following facts:
- The way the Spirit “fell” on the new converts in Jerusalem, Caesaria, and at Ephesus isn’t like what the Pentecostals practice. In those three cases, the Spirit either fell on the people spontaneously and they spoke in tongues or prophesied automatically (Acts 2 & Acts 10). Or hands were laid on them and the Spirit fell on them and they spoke in tongues and/or prophesied automatically (Acts 8 & Acts 19). In Pentecostal/charismatic circles, people are typically “coached” on how to speak in tongues. And sometimes they must “tarry” to receive this experience.
- The Pentecostal position cannot be sustained by experience. Many Christians who have had tremendous power with God never spoke in tongues. There is no evidence to suggest that Timothy or Titus spoke in tongues, for instance.
- According to Paul, tongues is a private prayer language; it is not speaking for God (1 Cor. 14:2, 13-14). Again, some Pentecostals will argue that this is a different kind of tongues than what we find in Acts. But this cannot be supported. The tongues in Acts 2 appears to be praise.
- According to Paul, tongues shouldn’t be spoken in a corporate gathering unless there is an interpreter present to interpret the prayer. This limits its use severely. In the church meetings, Paul would rather have the church prophesy than speak in tongues. This is clear all throughout 1 Corinthians 14.
- According to Paul, tongues in a public meeting serves as a sign of judgment against unbelievers (namely, to Jews who know the prophecy in Isaiah 28:11-12). See 1 Cor. 14:21-22 and compare with Acts 2:13. Prophecy is for the believers, and it edifies the church (1 Cor. 14:22 and 14:1-4). Tongues only edifies the person who speaks in tongues. When interpreted, tongues serves as a sign of judgment to unbelievers.
- The New Testament doesn’t explicitly encourage believers to seek tongues. Paul says to not forbid tongues, but to seek to prophesy instead (see 1 Cor. 14). At the same time, there’s nothing wrong with desiring the gift of tongues as Paul says to covet all the gifts.
- Tongues always comes last in Paul’s ordering of spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12). Some scholars regard this as his way of saying that in the grand scheme of spiritual gifts, tongues is the least valuable gift. Possibly since Paul says that the person who speaks in tongues edifies himself, not the church (see 1 Cor. 14:4-5). It’s valuable, but in the context of edifying the church, it’s not as valuable as the other gifts.
- Prophecy is not defined as predicting the future. It is forthtelling, not always foretelling. Though it can contain an element of seeing into the future. Prophecy is Spirit-inspired speech that reveals, exalts, and unveils Jesus Christ. The Old Testament prophets all spoke of Jesus when they prophesied. The book of Revelation states that the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy (Rev. 19:10). You can’t say Jesus is Lord in faith without the Holy Spirit inspiring you to say it (1 Cor. 12:1-3). So prophecy is the speaking of Jesus Christ under the inspiration of the Spirit.
Part III tomorrow . . .