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The Gift of Tongues | George E. Harmon

Errors in Modern Pentecostalism

That this is an age of many counterfeit religions, we must admit, and of which the New Testament writers have given us definite warning (1 Timothy 4:1).

Dear reader, let us turn to the Bible and see if their teachings and spirit, especially the tongues-evidence theory, harmonizes with the Word and Spirit of God.

Error 1: Speaking in tongues as the Spirit gives utterance (Acts 2:4) is different than the gift of tongues (1 Corinthians 12:10).

There is no distinction in the two expressions, for both refer to the same thing. True speaking in tongues of Acts 2:4 is a manifestation of the Spirit, as implied by the words, “as the Spirit gave them utterance.” The fact that the true tongues are given of the Spirit necessarily means they are a “gift” of the Spirit. In the 1 Corinthians 12 both expressions are used interchangeably and speak of the same spiritual gift. We read, “To one is given by the Spirit… divers kinds of tongues,”* (1 Corinthians 12:8,10) referring to the gift of tongues. Then in verse 30 we read, “Do all speak with tongues?” which also refers to the same gift, just as the “gift of miracles” and “working of miracles”* (1 Corinthians 12:10) are equivalent expressions. We understand that this distinguishing theory was introduced in the year of 1900 by C. F. Parham. The early church never taught it, for it is a strained interpretation to uphold the tongues-evidence theory.

Error 2: The baptism of the Holy Ghost is in every instance attended by the initial physical sign of speaking in other tongues as the Spirit gives utterance.

The Scripures nowhere teach that speaking in tongues is required as evidence that the Holy Ghost is received. If you can, quote us one direct Scriptural requirement on this point. Paul asks, “Do all speak with tongues?”* (1 Corinthians 12:30) No, is the implied answer, for in the preceding verses he had explained that there were “differences of administration”* (1 Corinthians 12:29) in the manifestation of the Spirit, meaning that the Spirit does not manifest Himself through the same particular gift in every person, “but the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.”* (1 Corinthians 12:7) You know that all are not apostles, all are not workers of miracles (1 Corinthians 12:29), neither do all speak with true tongues. Speaking in tongues, which could only be “as the Spirit [gives] utterance,”* (Acts 2:4) is only a manifestation, or gift, of the Spirit in common with other special gifts. According to this error, the Holy Spirit is denied unless He chooses to manifest Himself in a certain manner. The Holy Ghost Himself is the satisfactory evidence. “Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness.”* (Hebrews 10:15) “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit.”* (Romans 8:16) If the reception of the Spirit must be evidenced by an outward physical sign, surely one’s conversion should be determined by a special sign in all cases. Since such is not true, then there is no necessity of that particular witness for the baptism, or for any other special work or favor from God.

On the day of Pentecost the first disciples exercised the gift of prophecy, as well as the gift of tongues, when they received the Holy Ghost. Also, the twelve disciples at Ephesus prophesied when they received the Holy Ghost and spoke with tongues (Acts 19). Therefore, the special gift of prophecy should be given preference if either of the gifts were to be accepted as the evidence of the reception of the Holy Ghost for “greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues”* (1 Corinthians 14:5); and Paul further exhorts, “Desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.”* (1 Corinthians 14:1)

Error 3: The baptism of the Holy Ghost is received just like it was on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2).

Do the modern tongues people manifest the same signs as then? Let us notice more closely the Pentecostal scene. The first outward sign was the coming of “a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind and it filled all the house where they were sitting”* (Acts 2:2); the second outward sign was, “There appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them”* (Acts 2:3); the third outward sign, “began to speak with other tongues [languages] as the Spirit gave them utterance.”* (Acts 2:4) The modern movement does not reproduce these signs as claimed in the above error. They discard the first two, and emphasize the last. However, the first sign is just as important as the last in this particular scene, being only a literal fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy at the ushering in of the Holy Spirit dispensation. The manifestation of tongues which people generally receive today are not languages as spoken on the day of Pentecost, but only a false gibber through Satanic power or nervous derangement. Therefore, in no sense do they reproduce the Pentecostal outpouring. No hint is made at the Pentecostal scene that the disciples spoke in unknown tongues, nor to God alone, neither did they need an interpreter, but these languages were spoken direct to the people of different nations and were given specifically for the purpose of spreading the gospel to various nations through prophecy or preaching, a special gift which they also received at this time. The Bible gift of tongues is a language, and is given as an aid to prophecy when needed.

Evidently the disciples on this occasion did not talk in different languages a few minutes only, for the incident was noised abroad and the multitude representing different nationalities came together, and each “heard them speak in his own language,”* (Acts 2:6) which no doubt continued the greater part of the day, each disciple talking in order, Peter’s sermon being recorded in this chapter. If speaking these various languages was the only evidence that they had the Holy Ghost, then when they ceased to speak the apostles could have rightly concluded that they had lost the Holy Ghost. How inconsistent! Our Pentecostal friends would endeavor to satisfy us with a momentary evidence, but thank God, the infilling of the Spirit is not dependent upon transitory evidences, for the Holy Spirit in the heart is the abiding evidence Himself.

Error 4: That one should “tarry” for the baptism of the Spirit, evidenced by the speaking in tongues.

Jesus commanded the disciples to tarry at Jerusalem until they were endued with power from on high (Luke 24:49). We know that this refers to Pentecost (Acts 1:8). To fulfill Old Testament type, the Spirit would not be given until “the day of Pentecost was fully come.”* (Acts 2:1) This tarrying applied only to the disciples before Pentecost, meaning for them to await that special time. On that day we find them “with one accord in one place,”* () and they were “sitting”* (Acts 2:2)—denoting no physical exertion. Literal tarrying is not needed so much now as meeting the conditions for the reception of the Spirit. Divine operations are spiritual and are wrought in the heart by faith (Ephesians 2:8). Faith is receiving where there is no sight or physical evidence, for faith is “the evidence of things not seen.”* (Hebrews 11:1) “He that believeth… hath the witness in himself.”* (1 John 5:10) By faith the Holy Spirit is received (Galatians 3:14). Therefore, faith is omitted when one looks to the physical evidence as the goal, and one is not satisfied until he receives the “tongues.” Under such conditions of tarrying, physical exertion, and omission of faith, wonderful opportunities are afforded the devil to give counterfeit tongues or spirits (1 John 4:1). It is easy for the devil to counterfeit physical manifestations of the Spirit, and this alone makes the theory unreliable. Then, too, no allowance is made for counterfeit manifestations, many of which the Word of God directly condemns. People who are demon-possessed very often speak in tongues. To my knowledge a number of persons have escaped from the tongues movement, and in order to get Bible salvation they had to have the devils cast out by the power of God. In fact, in every case where they had sought and received the delusion of tongues, the power of the devil had to be broken before they could get salvation. This is a warning to beware of this supernatural power of the devil.

The tongues movement, through this supernatural delusive power, has ensnared a multitude of people. “Lying wonders”* (2 Thessalonians 2:9) are performed by them. It is also a refuge for those who “[receive] not the love of the truth.”* (1 Thessalonians 2:10)

Dear reader, if you have believed these tongues theories, be honest with yourself and seek deliverance from the enemy of your soul.

—Lawrence D. Pruitt