When the Spirit of Christ was poured out upon the Church on Pentecost, one of the signs that accompanied this miracle was that the disciples “began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” Acts 2:4. This sign was continued in the Church throughout the time of the apostles. Wherever God called His Church into existence, one sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit was this gift of speaking in tongues. In fact, Paul had to warn the Corinthians that they do not make misuse of this gift: “For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries . . . . . For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye speak into the air.” I Corinthians 14:2, 8, 9.
It was (and is) generally believed that this special sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit ceased with the end of the apostolic era.
But in recent years a considerable amount of discussion has arisen again about speaking in tongues. This discussion has risen because it is being claimed once again that the Spirit is manifesting Himself in the church through this sign. The movement of tongues is rapidly spreading.
This is especially true of the fast-growing denomination known as the Pentecostals. They have, for some time, claimed that they are the original Pentecostal Church of the first century; that in their fellowship the Spirit operates through this special sign. But the movement is also spreading beyond them to other churches and denominations. Even among churches who have a Reformed background (such as, for example, certain Presbyterians) there are claims made by some men that they possess this gift of “tongues.” Even (and this is somewhat surprising) on college campuses there are many students who are sure they possess this extraordinary gift of the Holy Spirit. They are forming “clubs” and “fellowships” in which they wait until they are moved by the Spirit to speak in other tongues.
There are some who will even go so far as to insist that a person has no right to claim that he possesses the Holy Spirit at all unless he can give proof that he has the gift of speaking in other tongues. This speaking with tongues is supposed to be a deep religious experience—although it stands to reason that it can be such an experience only for the one speaking in this fashion; nobody else can understand what he is talking about. There is even some talk about it that God is giving additional revelation through this speaking with tongues—revelation apart from Scripture; although no one seems able to say just what this additional revelation is supposed to be. The gift is used both in public worship and in private devotions.
Because the movement is growing, it is well that we weigh these claims and be able to give an intelligent answer to those who speak so loudly of having the Spirit in this fashion.
Many serious objections can be raised against such claims.
1) In the first place, there were extraordinary signs of the Holy Spirit in the early Church; this cannot be denied. And one of these signs was indeed speaking with other tongues. But this was a special sign given by Christ to the Church in its infancy. The outpouring of the Spirit was a great miracle which had not been witnessed in the Church in the whole Old Dispensation. Because the Church was very young, and because the wonder of the in-dwelling of the Spirit was something radically new, God granted to that Church signs which were visible and audible so that it could be undeniably proved to the heathen that this salvation of the gospel was indeed a wonder of grace. The same thing was true of miracles. It was granted to the apostles to perform miracles in the name of Christ as visible proofs of the power of the gospel and the might of the Holy Spirit. But when the Church reached maturity, these signs were no longer needed. The very existence of the Church itself throughout the ages (and in the midst of fierce persecution and constant efforts to destroy it) were sufficient proof that the Church was established, protected and preserved by God. Special signs were no longer needed.
That this is true is also evident from the fact that all the greatest leaders of the Church never made any claim to having this gift. The list is impressive: St. Augustine, Huss, Ursinus, Calvin, Luther, Zwingli, Wycliffe, Guide de Bres, the fathers of Dordt, the great theologians of the 19th Century—to mention a few of the most well-known. While these men fought valiantly for the Church and advanced the cause of the truth, they never claimed in any way to possess this gift of tongues. One would think that if God continued this sign in the Church, surely these gifted and important leaders of the New Dispensational Church would possess it.
2) Secondly, on Pentecost the disciples spoke in existing languages. There were gathered in Jerusalem Jews from all over the world; each speaking also the language of his home land. It was in all these different languages that the disciples spoke. “And they were all amazed and marveled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galileans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?” Acts 2:7, 8. This is not true of the modern “gift of tongues.” Of all the many cases that have been examined, there is absolutely no record of any one speaking in an, existing language. Rather they speak a gibberish of sounds that no one else in all the world speaks. Linguists have studied recordings of these speakings in other tongues, and they all report that there is no language like it; that, in fact, the gibberish that is spoken does not even have the structure of a possible language. The whole “gift” is therefore utterly nonsense.
3) Thirdly, when this gift of tongues was given to the early Church, it was given as a sign of the gospel, and it always accompanied the gospel. More specifically, it was a sign of the fact that the New Dispensational Church is catholic—i.e., gathered from every nation and tribe and tongue. It spoke forcibly of the fact that the gospel was a power to save both Jew and Gentile.
But what do we have today? The gift of tongues is completely divorced from the gospel and from the truth of Scripture. The sects that have strayed far from God’s Word are claiming this gift. It is no longer (as it was in the early Church) a sign of the spread of the gospel and its power. It is completely divorced from the truth and becomes instead a sign of heresy in the church.
Furthermore, there is no longer any need of proof that the Spirit gathers the Church from every nation on the earth. This has been abundantly proved throughout this dispensation. And therefore there is no more need of the sign.
4) Finally, that this gift of tongues could be a means of additional revelation is a denial of Scripture. The result of this will be utter chaos and anarchy in the church. For every man can then believe and do whatever he wants. He need only appeal to a revelation which he received, and no one can ever prove him wrong.
Rather, this “gift of tongues” is a sign of the terrible confusion that plagues a church cut loose from Scripture and drifting with the tides of false doctrine.
In the last half century there has been a growing trend towards women clergy in the Church. It all began with the question of whether women had a right to participate in the legal affairs of the Church, vote at Church meetings, etc. Gradually the churches adopted the position that this was not in conflict with Scripture. The next step (and this always follows) was that women were permitted to hold office in the Church—first the office of deacon, and then later the office of elder. Now the question has come up whether women also have the right to preach. Many churches have granted this right; and, no doubt, many of our readers have heard women preachers over the air or in various churches.
But it naturally follows that if women may hold the office of elder or deacon, they surely may also be ministers of the gospel.
This same question is up for discussion in the Presbyterian Church U.S. (Southern). It is up for discussion in the form of an amendment to the Book of Church Order which would permit the ordination of women. According to the rules of the denomination, the question was up at the last General Assembly; there it was referred to the churches so that each congregation is given opportunity to vote on it; if a majority of the 80 congregations vote in favor of it, it will be enacted into law at the Assembly meeting next year. (Although Assemblies usually go along with these votes, they are not bound to do so. They could conceivably still reject the amendment even if a majority of congregations favored it.)
So far twenty-seven congregations have voted on the matter. Sixteen of these have approved the change to permit ordination of women; eleven have voted against it. The largest congregation in Atlanta, Georgia voted against the amendment by a vote of 84-83. This close vote was an indication of how close the vote was in many other congregations; and, perhaps it is also an indication of how close the final vote till be.
But even if the matter should be defeated, that will hardly be the end of it. The Churches killed a similar plan seven years ago; and if it is killed again, those who advocate it will keep on trying until they are successful.
The Presbyterian Journal (an independent and unofficial conservative voice in the Church) has been fighting hard against the plan; and has been recording the vote from week to week. The final outcome however will not be known until sometime next Spring, since some Churches are postponing their vote until February and March.
Some smaller items of interest quoted fromChristianity Today.
The Tunisian government ordered the North Africa Mission, an evangelical group with headquarters in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, to stop seeking converts among Muslims. The Mission’s bookstore in Tunis was ordered closed and its Bible correspondence courses discontinued.
This is a further indication of the growing impossibility of doing missionary work among the heathen. Gradually the doors in these countries are closing. However, it is also interesting to note that this missionary work was carried on among the Muslims or Mohammedans. Through the ages, it has been next to impossible to do any missionary work among Mohammedans. There have been almost no converts at all throughout the entire New Dispensation. One wonders if this is perhaps because the Mohammedans are primarily Arabs—descendants of Esau and Ishmael.
The closing of 200 churches and prayer houses in one section of the western Ukraine in the past three years was reported last month by the Soviet Communist Party newspaper Pravda.
The persecution of Christians evidently continues behind the iron curtain.
Mrs. Madalyn Murray, successful litigant in the U.S. Supreme Court’s Bible reading-prayer case, filed suit in Baltimore against tax exemptions for church-owned property.
As this news item says, this woman is the one who fought to have Bible reading and prayers excluded from the public school system. We also reported, earlier in our column, that she (and others of like views) have decided to establish an atheistic organization somewhere in the Midwest for the propagation of their atheism. This same woman has also filed suits in courts to keep nuns from teaching in the public schools. She has certainly become a passionate crusader for atheism in this country.