Early Pentecostal Tongues in Crisis

Two missionaries speaking in tongues to two Japenese people who do not understand them

An indepth look at the development, expansion, and failure of Pentecostal missionary tongues and a critical public that called it gibberish.

Early Pentecostalism and especially the Azusa Street outbreak of tongues in 1906 caused a revival in the practice of speaking in tongues. The outbreak initially continued a traditional one that parallels Christian history for over 2000 years. The early Pentecostals understood that certain individuals were inspired by the Holy Spirit to miraculously speak a foreign language. When this occurred, there was some perceived divine revelation on what language the person spoke. They understood this knowledge as a sign for the person to go to the people group or nation to tell the Good News. Unfortunately, this fervor was badly hit by a dose of reality. These Pentecostal missionaries arrived at their destinations and found that they did not have this ability.

The above conclusion is a surprise to most Pentecostals and Charismatics and will evoke great suspicion. The rest of this article is dedicated to substantiating and further clarifying this problem with copious details.

The focus of this essay is on the crisis of Pentecostal tongues. How they went about and solved this theological dilemma by creating a distinct and revolutionary new doctrine of tongues is found in the following article, Solutions to the Pentecostal Tongues Crisis.

Before proceeding one must understand the idea of the tongues doctrine developed in the 1800s called glossolalia had not yet influenced the Wesleyan or Holiness movements. Glossolalia is not part of the initial story that culminated at Azusa Street. It comes later.

The Missionary Tongues Movement

Holiness and the majority of American and British Protestant churches during the late 1800s held on to the traditional definition as the miraculous ability to speak in a foreign language. For many during the period, it was not the definition of speaking miraculously in a foreign language that was a problem, but whether the gift ceased in the early Church. The Holiness based movements and those influenced by them believed the traditional version had perpetuated and had begun to develop a sense it was specifically for missionary expansion. The following will demonstrate this concept in detail.

C. T. Studd, a young missionary with China Inland Mission, wrote about promising the claim of Mark chapter 16. This chapter has one verse that asserts that believers shall be empowered to “speak in new tongues.” When C. T. Studd and seven others arrived in China in 1889, they thought they had been empowered to speak in a language the Chinese could understand. While attempting to speak supernaturally, he wrote: “. . .they did not understand us at all at first at Hanchung—thought us idle fanatics.” They were embarrassed and quickly learned that God wanted them to study the language.1

The Christian Missionary Alliance Church waddled through the missionary tongues issue in the late 1800s. One can track the concept to an unnamed author who wrote in the Friday, February 12, 1892, Alliance periodical. The writer believed that everyone should cautiously seek the supernatural ability to speak in tongues for every foreign missionary endeavor. On the other hand, it should not be assumed to happen in every circumstance:

Certainly we do expect, in every case where it is claimed by humble believing prayer, a supernatural assistance in acquiring the native language, and we should not be surprised in any case to hear of the direct bestowal of the power to speak an unknown tongues. But we are not prepared to teach this as a definite scriptural promise for all who go to preach the Gospel to the heathen, or consider a lack of faith on the part of any worker who has not received this special gift.2

Almost six months later, another article was posted in the Alliance magazine by a young missionary by the name of W. W. Simpson (no relation to A. B. Simpson) eager to go to Shanghai, China. He was hoping for the promise in Mark 16–a text that many people in the Holiness movement perceived as the ability to acquire a new language miraculously. If Simpson did not acquire this divine aptitude, then he would study.3

The founder and leader of the Christian Missionary Alliance, A. B. Simpson saw that this missionary shortcut to learning foreign languages was a consistent problem with Bible college students training for the mission field. He finally stated in 1898:

In our own day there is the same strained and extravagant attempt to unduly exaggerate the gift of tongues, and some have even proposed that we should send our missionaries to the foreign field under a sort of moral obligation to claim this gift, and to despise the ordinary methods of acquiring a language. Such a movement would end in fanaticism and bring discredit upon the truth itself. We know of more than one instance where our beloved missionaries have been saved from this error and led to prosecute their studies in foreign languages with fidelity and diligence, and their efforts have been rewarded by supernatural help in acquiring languages in a remarkably short time, but not in despair of proper industry and the use of their own faculties under God’s direction in acquiring these languages.4

Picture of a bearded A. B. Simpson sitting on a bench
A. B. Simpson

W. B. Godbey was a revered Wesleyan preacher and one of the most popular and influential speakers in the late 1800s. He felt the immediate supernatural ability to speak in a foreign language was becoming more apparent in his time and noted missionaries in Africa were fulfilling this promise. He was excited that this was “amid the glorious prophetical fulfillment of the latter days.”5

The story then moves over to one of the Pentecostal founders: Charles Fox Parham, He was a self-appointed itinerant/evangelist in the early 1900s who had an enormous early contribution to the modern tongues movement. It was his teaching and missional emphasis that encouraged a number of his followers, especially Lucy Farrow, and later William Seymour to go to California and be major patrons in the Azusa Street Revival.

Parham was heavily influenced by A.B. Simpson, and two other controversial notables during this period: Alexander Dowie and Frank Sandford. What they all had in common was the restoration of the primitive church and the imminent coming of the end.

Simpson has already been described. Dowie’s contribution was a mystical one that impacted Parham and gave him authority to inquire within the supernatural realm but there was little correlation with tongues. Sandford had a direct effect on Parham’s view of speaking in tongues. Sandford was a speaker full of charisma and passion that attracted over 600 followers who resided in a community controlled by him named Shiloh in Durham, Maine. He was a Christian mystic with apocalyptic ideas who mixed British Israelitism, modern missions, and divine interventions in the everyday life. 6

There was an outbreak of tongues speaking in Sandford’s commune that Parham observed while visiting. This excited Parham who believed the supernatural imposition of foreign languages was a precursor to the end. 7

A picture of Charles Parham, one of the original founders of the Pentecostal movement
Charles Parham, 1873 — 1929 AD

Secondly, he learned from Sanford’s tract, “The Everlasting Gospel,” about a woman named Jennie Glassey given the miraculous ability to speak and draw and sing in foreign languages. Unfortunately, I do not have access to this information, but another publication by Sandford called Tongues of Fire described Glassey’s giftings in detail:

May 31. This has been a day of waiting on God to get further orders. Had the joy tonight of hearing Brother Black and Sister Black and Sister Glassey sing a part of the ninth Psalm in an African tongue. Sister Glassey has at different times spoken while in the Spirit, in Greek, French, Latin, German, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, and several African dialects, words and sentences given her by the Holy Ghost. She has also written many letters of the Greek and Hebrew alphabet. Words in as many as six of these languages have been recognized as such by one who has studied classics, thus proving the genuineness of God’s gifts to our sister. He who said, “They shall speak with new tongues” is proving his words true, thus enabling one like Sister Glassey to preach the “everlasting gospel” to any soul on this globe, with the necessary language at her disposal.8

With all the evidence at hand, the variables led to one deterministic conclusion, the end was nigh, and the era of the supernatural was about to begin. Parham and students of his Bible school in Topeka, Kansas, sought this gift and it happened on New Year’s Eve 1901 – Agnes Ozman began to miraculously speak and write in Chinese for three days, unable to speak English.9

Thus began the germination of a new movement that would go beyond the figure of Parham himself. This is where the story now turns west to Los Angeles.

See Charles Parham on Speaking in Tongues for more information.

All roads in the Pentecostal movement point to Los Angeles in some particular way. A place where a small church called the Apostolic Faith Mission led by William Seymour, a student of Charles Parham, was just beginning. The name of the church is secondary to its location; 312 Azusa Street. This is where the first outbreak of tongues had become viral news for the first time in almost 70 years after the London-based Irvingites whose practices gained international attention and awoke the doctrine out of a long slumber.

The Azusa experience in 1906 brought speaking in tongues to the international attention of the religious community and the curiosity of both local and national newspapers. Clara Lum and Florence Crawford, editors of the official newspaper of the Azusa Street Revival called the Apostolic Faith believed it to be the supernatural endowment of a foreign language. The Apostolic Faith had copious citations of people miraculously speaking in numerous foreign languages.

The following early 1970s video is a short excerpt from Mattie Cummings, who was present at the initial Azusa gatherings when she was eight-years-old and recalls the miracle of speaking in foreign languages. She does not mention any other alternative definitions. She was interviewed by the noted Pentecostal historian, Vinson Synan.

See also the first edition of the Apostolic Faith Newspaper at the Pentecostal Archives site. The newspaper unequivocally promoted tongues as a miracle of foreign languages.

The Missionary Tongues Dilemma

However a serious problem surfaced almost immediately with the gifting of missionary tongues. Those missionaries who went out to a foreign land with the presumption of having the miraculous ability to speak the language of their target group found upon arrival that it didn’t work.

This tension was especially noted with Alfred and Lillian Garr. Alfred and Lillian were high-profile personalities in the holiness movement that received their baptism with speaking in tongues at the Apostolic Faith Mission. Their names frequently appear in the earliest Pentecostal literature. The Garr’s came from a Methodist background and educated at the well-known Asbury Theological Seminary. Over time, the Garr’s departed from Methodism and joined a holiness movement called the Burning Bush. The Burning Bush leaders requested them to lead a church in Los Angeles. It was through this move that Alfred visited the Apostolic Faith Mission and received his baptism and speaking in tongues. His wife joined shortly after in this experience. In a church experience where Mr. Garr was speaking in tongues, he believed a man from India understood that he was speaking in a number of different languages of India, one of them certainly in Bengali. It took less than a year for Garr and his wife to depart for India and start a new life. When they arrived in India, they discovered the gift of tongues did not follow.

A Pentecostal leader in England, A. A Boddy, had succinctly asked A. Garr about his gift. Did the supernatural endowment help Garr when he arrived in India? Did others similarly empowered also demonstrate this phenomenon? Garr answered that he did not have the ability. Neither did he see any others succeed. He wrote that the supernatural language he possessed had changed many times before he arrived and was no longer of use in his present circumstances. This problem did not shake his faith, because he believed God gave it, and even though it did not help at the moment, that was good enough for him.

See Garr’s Missionary Crisis on Speaking in Tongues for the actual letter.

This sort-of admission took some time to develop. Lillian Garr wrote to the Apostolic Faith Newspaper’s April 1907 edition stating that 13 or 14 missionaries and others had received Pentecost while they lived in India, but she omitted any reference to tongues-speech. Rather, she shifted the emphasis to interpretation, song, writing in tongues and other manifestations.10 Some months later the Garrs announce that they no longer were involved in evangelistic efforts because of the linguistic barrier. They shifted focus to equip long-term missionaries who already had these skills.11

Allan Anderson, one of the foremost authorities on Pentecostal history states that many so-called endowed missionaries were disillusioned upon arrival, but does not elaborate.12 The recognition of disillusionment is rarely documented in any Pentecostal works.

Why these people did not confirm these languages by a reputable authority or seek affirmation from a respected native speaker in the language they purported to speak before leaving for the mission field is odd. This omission adds another level of mystery in the whole narrative.

The Gibberish Movement

A second problem immediately became apparent. The public perceived those speaking in tongues as the childish babbling of fanatical adherents. The tabloids began turning to a mocking tone and viewed such practices as a form of entertainment—an alternative to the circus. For example, the New Zealand Herald, April 3, 1908, reprinted an article from a London newspaper with some added commentary. The author followed a Pentecostal service in Islington — a borough in London, England.

The newest sect of rabid revivalists had a fit of temporary insanity last night (says the London Express of April 3) at a small hall in Upper-street, Islington.

The show was held under the auspices of “Holy Brother” Wilson, an Irish-American, assisted by another “holy brother,” who, by his accent, should be of the same nationality.

(The writer narrates different portions of the service and then adds) . . .The “gift of tongues” was loudly invoked, and the gift arrived a little more quickly than anyone anticipated. An anaemic looking girl in the middle of the hall rose to her feet, and let out a yell like a steam siren:—

“Ouchicka—ouchicka—ouchicka,

Hoo—hoo—hoo.

Havaa—howaa.”13

The Apostolic Faith church in Los Angeles faced similar criticism. The Los Angeles Times wrote a 1906 piece titled, Weird Babel of Tongues. The condescending and outright mocking tone of the article was a dominant feature. Below is a digitized version on how author described the church service and speaking in tongues:

“You-oo-oo gou-loo-loo come under the bloo-oo-oo boo-loo;” shouts an old colored “mammy;” in a frenzy of religious zeal. Swinging her arms wildly about her, she continues with the strangest harangue ever uttered. Few of her words are intelligible, and for the most part her testimony contains the most outrageous jumble of syllables, which are listened to with awe by the company.

Let Tongues Come Forth

One of the wildest of the meetings was held last night, and the highest pitch of excitement was reached by the gathering, which continued to “worship” until nearly midnight. The old exhorter urged the “sisters” to let the “tongues come forth” and the women gave themselves over to a riot of religious fervor. As a result a buxom dame was overcome with excitement and almost fainted.

Undismayed by the fearful attitude of the colored worshipper, another black women [sic] jumped to the floor and began a wild gesticulation, which ended in a gurgle of wordless prayers which were nothing less than shocking.

“She’s speaking in unknown tongues;” announced the leader, in ah [sic] awed whisper, “keep on sister.” The sister continued until it was necessary to assist her to a seat because of her bodily fatigue.14

These reported experiences in the newspapers forced a perception that early Pentecostals had serious difficulty in proving otherwise.

There were insider challenges from the movement itself. People like Charles Parham and W. B. Godbey did not believe that the Azusa participants were speaking foreign languages and railed against them.15 However, one must keep in mind that there may have been political and personal problems between Parham and the Azusa Assembly that eventually led to Parham’s disassociation or dismissal. The tongues issue may have been a retaliatory measure.

Representatives of the Christian Missionary Alliance went to a Pentecostal meeting in Chicago to assess the movement and struck a more conciliatory tone than Parham and Godbey. They concluded that the experience was not representative of Pentecost but more like what St. Paul described in his letter to the Corinthians – “a means of communication between the soul and God.”16

In 1908, a Baptist minister turned psychologist and then president of Colgate University, G. B. Cutten, looked at the issue from a psychological perspective and deduced that it was nothing more than an emotionally inspired state by those who were of the lower class and didn’t know any better.17

These factors pushed the movement to a crisis point. Either they had to admit that the tongues outbreak was incorrect or redefine the experience.

How did they resolve this tension? This can be found in the next article: Solutions to the Pentecostal Tongues Crisis.

Additional Reading

  • A New Kind of Tongues.
    How the definition of tongues changed somewhere between 1906 and 1907. A summary and link to Gary B. McGee’s excellent article on the Pentecostal movement in the late 1800s and beyond.

  • Missionary Tongues: T. B. Barratt and the Soon Coming King.
    Author Geir Lie, “an educator and archivist of Northern European Pentecostal history” reflects on the missionary tongues of early Pentecostalism.

  • Garr’s Missionary Crisis on Speaking in Tongues
    A copy of the letter from Alfred Garr to A. A. Boddy, editor of the early Pentecostal magazine, Confidence, on why Garr’s supernatural tongue of Bengali did not happen when he arrived to India.

  1. The Evangelisation of the World: a Missionary Band: a Record of Consecration, and an Appeal. B. Broomhall ed., London: Morgan and Scott. 1889. Pg. 53
  2. Christian Alliance and Missionary Weekly. Friday, February 12, 1892. Vol. VIII. No. 7
  3. Christian Alliance and Missionary Weekly. Friday, July 1, 1892. Vol. IX. No. 1. Pg. 13
  4. Wednesday, February 9, 1898. Vol. XX. No. 6. The Worship and Fellowship of the Church: Weekly Sermon. Pg. 126
  5. W. B. Godbey. Spiritual Gifts and Graces. Cincinnati: M.W. Knapp. Pg. 42
  6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Sandford
  7. Harold Hunter. Beniah at the Apostolic Crossroads: Little Noticed Crosscurrents of B.H. Irwin, Charles Fox Parham, Frank Sandford, A.J. Tomlinson. CyberJournal for Pentecostal-Charismatic Research.
  8. Tongues of Fire, July 15, 1898 pg. 107 from an article entitled “Notes from my Journal While En Route for The City of The Great King” by Willard Gleason. As originally found at fwselijah.com. Unfortunately, the site is no longer online. An archived copy is found at internet archive.org. There are no photographic or digital reproductions of the Tongues of Fire series. An archive of original physical documents are found at Edmund S. Muskie Archives and Special Collections, Bates College. I hope to work with the librarian there to get copies of the necessary pages.
  9. Mrs. Charles F. Parham. The Life of Charles Parham: Founder of the Apostolic Faith Movement. Baxter Springs. NP. 1930 Fourth Edition 2000. Pg. 52
  10. Apostolic Faith Newspaper. April 1907. Vol. 1. No. 7. Pg. 1
  11. Apostolic Faith Newspaper. June to September 1907. Vol. 1. No. 9
  12. The Azusa Street Revival and the Emergence of Pentecostal Missions in the Early Twentieth Century. By Allan Anderson. As found in Transformation. 23/2 April 2006. Pg. 109
  13. New Zealand Herald. XLV. May 23. 1908. Issue 13757
  14. LA Times. April 18. 1906. Pg.1
  15. Mrs. Charles F. Parham. The Life of Charles F. Parham: the Founder of the Apostolic Faith Movement. Fourth Printing. 2000. Baxter Springs. Kansas. 1930. Pg. 163; On Godbey and many other holiness leaders see Vinson Synan. Pentecostal Tradition: Charismatic Movements in the Twentieth Century. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. 1997. Pg. 127
  16. The Christian and Missionary Alliance. July 27, 1907. Vol. XXVIII. No. 4. Pg. 44 “Notes from the Home Field”
  17. G. B. Cutten. The Psychological Phenomena of Christianity. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. 1908. Pg. 52

9 thoughts on “Early Pentecostal Tongues in Crisis”

    • Either the source cannot be located or it is an error on my part. Either way, the following line in this article “Parham encouraged students of his Bible school in Topeka, Kansas to seek this gift and it happened on one New Year’s Eve, 1901 – ” cannot be substantiated. This line has been changed to “Parham and students of his bible school in Topeka, Kansas, sought this gift and it happened on New Year’s Eve 1901 – ” This is consistent with the footnote that immediately follows.

      Reply
  1. Near the end of his life, A.B. Simpson lamented that he may have “missed God” by rejecting the Pentecostal experience. I’m curious, Do you plan to refute the principle of tongues as a work of the Holy Spirit by conclusions drawn from historical anecdotes? Scripture speaks on the subject, and it is more clear, and certainly more authoritative than this form of surmise.

    Reply
    • The interpretation framework of the passages relating to modern Pentecostal concept of speaking in tongues and the baptism of Holy Spirit are rather new to the history of Christianity–a little older than a 100 years. The earliest Jews, and later what developed into Christianity, did not parallel such a perception for over 1800 years. Although the Pentecostal perception could be correct, the historical data from Christian and Jewish sources do not support such views. Rather, as stated throughout the Gift of Tongues Project, the standard Renewalist position (Pentecostals, Charismatics, and Third Wavers) can only occur where over eighteen centuries of historical data accumulated on the subject is omitted.

      Reply
      • Much of what I just read has been colored by words that distort our Pentecostal history.. I am thankful Believer.. I’m the first person I heard speak in tongues… God in His mercy saw a 15 year old boy.. He baptized me in 1957 and I’ve spoken and prayed in tongues since that wonderful be day…I’m sorry you have misled some people with this article. However those among us from the lowest to the multitude of PHDs will forever stand for this Bible experience.
        Dr Robert Bartlett

        Reply
        • It’s not about personal experiences. What matters is: What does the Scripture teach? Experience is subjective whereas a sound teaching based on an accurate interpretation of scriptures is objective. If you rely on your experiences rather than on what the Scripture teaches, you will be led astray. A lot of people are misled by their personal experiences because these experiences are based on what they have been wrongly taught or on what they regularly observe around them (e.g., in their local church). Our interpretation of Scripture cannot be based on our personal experiences. Rather, we should let Scripture shape our personal experiences.

          I think that one serious mistake that Pentecostals/Charismatics make in their interpretation of certain passages (such as 1 Corinthians 14) is that they interpret individual verses in isolation rather than interpreting each verse in the context of the rest of the passage. Attempting to interpret individual verses in isolation is a recipe for a very serious error of interpretation. To understand 1 Corinthians 14, we must first realize that the context of this passage is public worship during a church service, not private devotion. We must also recognize the fact that Paul is comparing and contrasting two gifts – the gift of prophesying and the gift of tongues – both in the context of public worship. In verse 1, he says: “Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.” The second part of verse 1 “especially that you may prophesy” clearly shows that Paul prefers to the gift of prophecy to tongues. So, from the very beginning of this chapter, Paul makes it clear that he prefers prophesying to speaking in tongues. Then in the next several verses (especially verses 2 and 4), he gives us the specific reasons why he prefers prophesying to speaking in tongues during church service.

          I have been a Pentecostal for a long time, and I believed the typical Pentecostal/Charismatic doctrine on tongues for quite a long time. However, in recent times, I have come to the conclusion that much of the Pentecostal/Charismatic doctrine on tongues is not scriptural; rather, it is man-made. I came to this conclusion following months of prayers, re-examining the scriptures, and asking the Lord to give me an understanding of tongues and what the Scripture teaches about it. Based on the new insight which I have received regarding tongues, I have come to believe that the following Pentecostal views regarding tongues are unbiblical:

          1. THE VIEW THAT TONGUES ARE MEANT FOR PERSONAL EDIFICATION:

          This view cannot be correct because it directly contradicts the stated purpose of spiritual gifts in the Bible. 1 Cor. 12:7 clearly says, “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all (i.e., for the common good or collective good)”. In other words, all spiritual gifts are given for the collective benefit of the church, not for personal use. This fact is reinforced by Peter’s message in 1 Peter 4:10: “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” Furthermore, Ephesians 4:12 says the gifts of the Spirit were given “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ”. So, the Bible consistently says that the purpose of all spiritual gifts (including tongues) is to edify not the individual but the church collectively. The Pentecostal position that tongues are meant for personal edification directly contradicts 1 Cor. 12:7, 1 Peter 4:10, and Ephesians 4;12. The Bible cannot contradict itself. Scriptures do not contradict scriptures. When an apparent contradiction exists, it is because human beings have misunderstood and misinterpreted a portion of the Scripture, which is exactly what has happened regarding the Pentecostal position that the gift of tongues is meant for personal edification.

          In 1 Corinthians 14:4, Paul says, “He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself.” Now, if you isolate this verse from the preceding verses, it would seem to be saying that the purpose of tongues is to edify the speaker. This mistaken understanding of this verse has contributed to the doctrine of a “prayer language” type of tongues. But if you interpret it in the context of the passage, it means something entirely different. In order to interpret this verse (1 Cor. 14:4) in context, we first need to recognize that the context of the entire chapter is public worship during a church service. The context is NOT private devotion. This fact should be kept in mind while interpreting every single verse of this chapter. Secondly, in order to interpret 1 Cor. 14:4 in context, we need to begin reading from verse 1. Bearing in mind that the context of this passage is public worship in the church, Paul’s point in this verse is this: if you speak in tongues in the church (without interpretation), you’re the only one who gets edified in the process, and the rest of the church is not edified. And because the rest of the church is not edified, speaking in tongues violates the purpose of spiritual gifts as stated in 1 Cor. 12:7 and 1 Peter 4:10 (these verses say that spiritual gifts are given for the edification of the whole church, not for personal edification). For this reason, Paul says he prefers prophesying to speaking in tongues during public worship. Paul’s point here is: when someone speaks in tongues in the church (without interpretation of the tongues), the speaker benefits/edifies only himself whereas when someone prophesies in the church, he benefits the entire church. Therefore, prophesying is better than speaking in tongues unless the tongues are interpreted. Paul is NOT saying that tongues are meant to be used in private for our personal edification. What he is saying is that if someone speaks in a tongue during a public worship in a church service, the only one who gets edified in the process is the speaker; the rest of the church is not edified because they cannot understand the the tongues being spoken. For this reason, prophesying is better than speaking in tongues during public worship, unless the tongues are interpreted. Everything that Paul is talking about in this passage has to do with public worship. There is no provision for using tongues in private in the same way that there is no provision for using the gift of prophecy in private. We’re are most likely to misinterpret this verse when we forget that the context of Paul’s message here is Paul is public worship during a church service. We must keep our interpretation in context.

          2. THE NOTION THAT THERE ARE TWO TYPES OF TONGUES:

          This view is not supported by scriptures. It is simply a ploy designed to get around Paul’s very clear teaching in 1 Cor. 12:30 that the gift of tongues is not meant for every believer. In 1 Cor. 12:30, Paul says: “Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?” These questions are rhetoric questions, and the obvious answer to each of these questions is “NO”. So, Paul is clearly saying in this verse that not everyone speaks in tongues. Pentecostals argue that in 1 Cor. 12:30, Paul is referring to only one of the two types of tongues — the gift of diverse kinds of tongues meant for public use — rather than the prayer language type of tongues meant for private devotion. The question then is: which type of tongues does Paul discuss in 1 Corinthians 14? In Paul’s rather long discourse on the gift of tongues in 1 Cor. 14, is he referring to the prayer language type of tongues or the diverse kinds of tongues for public use? If we say he is referring to the prayer language type of tongues in 1 Corinthians 14, the next question would be, why does he repeatedly emphasize the need for interpretation of the tongues throughout this passage? Does personal prayer language tongue require any interpretation? And if we say he is referring to the second type of tongues (the diverse kinds of tongues) instead of the prayer language tongue, then the entire Pentecostal doctrine on tongues falls flat because the Pentecostal doctrine is built on the belief that 1 Corinthians 14 supports the prayer language type of tongues for personal use.

          If we hold the view that there are two types of tongues, then we are faced with a difficulty in Paul’s discourse of tongues in 1 Corinthians 14. It would mean that Paul talks about one type of tongues (the prayer language tongue) in verse 2 of 1 Cor. 14, but switches to a second type of tongues (i.e., the diverse kinds of tongues for public use) in other verses, such as verses 13 and 17 where he insists that tongues must be interpreted for the edification of the church. Then he switches back to the prayer language tongues in the next few verses only to revert to the second type of tongues later. Isn’t that confusion? How could Paul switch back and forth between two different types of tongues within the same chapter of his letter without letting his audience know that he has made a switch? I mean, how could he be talking about two different types of tongues within the same passage without letting his audience know? How can he be discussing multiple types of tongues in the same letter without distinguishing between them so that his audience can understand exactly what he means? It makes no sense at all. Frankly speaking, I believe Paul is discussing only one type of tongue in chapter 14 and, indeed, in the entire 1 Corinthians. Remember that 1 Corinthians is a single letter; Paul did not divide his letter into chapters.

          The truth is, the Bible does not teach two types of tongues. It is human beings who have introduced the doctrine of two types of tongues. Due to a misunderstanding of tongues in the book of Acts, the Pentecostals strongly believe that every believer should speak in tongues. But Paul contradicts their view in 1 Cor. 12:30. In order to find a way to get around Paul’s statement in 1 Cor. 12:30, the Pentecostals came up with the theory that there are two types of tongues. May God help us!

          3. THE BELIEF THAT THE ONLY WAY TO PRAY IN THE SPIRIT IS TO SPEAK IN TONGUES:

          Pentecostals erroneously assume that the only way to pray in the Spirit is to speak in tongues. They think that “praying in the Spirit” means “praying in tongues”. This is partly due to their misunderstanding of 1 Cor. 14:14: “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful.” What Paul is simply saying in this verse is that when he prays in a tongue, his spirit is praying but his mind does not understand what he is saying. This is true, but it does not mean that praying in tongues is the only way to pray in the Spirit. You can pray in the Spirit while praying with your understanding (i.e., in a language you understand). Paul could have also made the following statement: “For if I pray with my understanding, my spirit prays and my understanding is fruitful.” Just because your understanding is fruitful does not mean that you’re not praying in the Spirit. Conversely, the fact that your understanding is unfruitful does not necessarily mean that you’re praying in the Spirit.

          Part of the problem is, it seems that almost everywhere the Pentecostals see the word “Spirit”, they try to replace it with “Tongues” as if “Spirit” and “Tongues” are interchangeable. If that were the case, then it follows that when the Bible admonishes us to “Walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16), it means we should “walk in tongues” which makes no sense. To pray in the Spirit simply means to pray in accordance with the leading of the Holy Spirit. In other words, the Holy Spirit should direct our prayers. It is not about tongues. If you’re sensitive to the leading of the Spirit, the Holy Spirit will give you prayer points on the things you should pray about. Let me give you a good example of what it means to pray in the Spirit, using my personal experience. Years ago, I came home after a very busy work day and I was so tired. Usually, when I am that tired, I sleep off immediately. But surprisingly, I could not sleep that night. I lived alone at that time. Because I could not sleep, I decided to start praying but I had no idea what to pray about at first. I guess I might have started by worshipping or praising God. As I began to do so, I felt within me that I should pray for all my siblings one after the other, mentioning them by name. That night, I prayed for all my brothers and sisters, one by one, praying for divine protection, and nullifying every plan of the devil against their lives. I prayed until dawn. Then that very morning, my younger brother was involved in a terrible road traffic accident in which those involved were badly injured; his injury was relatively mild compared to the injuries of others. He was living in another city from where I lived and I had no idea that he was going to travel in a vehicle the next morning. I believe the Lord led me to pray for him the previous night when I could not sleep. In my view, this was a good example of praying in the Spirit, which means allowing the Holy Spirit to direct our prayers. When I prayed for my siblings that night, I did not pray in “tongues”. I prayed in English language. A lot of Pentecostals have this mistaken belief that unless you pray in tongues, you have not prayed in the Spirit. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

          In Ephesians 6:18, Paul admonishes us to “Pray in the Spirit at all times, with all prayers and supplications”. This means ALL our prayers should be done in the Spirit. That is, 100% of our prayers should be in the Spirit at all times. Is Paul saying we should pray 100% of our prayers in tongues? Does it means we should no longer pray in a language we understand? Of course not! That’s not what Paul is saying. This shows that praying in the Spirit is NOT about praying in tongues. Furthermore, in the very next verse (v.19), Paul asks us to pray a specific prayer for him. How do we pray a specific prayer for somebody in tongues when we don’t understand what we are saying in tongues? We’re not in control of tongues and we don’t understand what we’re saying in tongues. If we decide to pray a specific prayer in a tongue, we might end up not even praying the specific prayer we had in mind, because the tongues could be about something completely different.

          4. THE VIEW THAT SPEAKING IN TONGUES IS THE EVIDENCE OR PROOF OF THE PRESENCE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IN A BELIEVER’S LIFE:

          Pentecostals say “tongues” are the evidence that a believer has received the Holy Spirit. But I say “the fruit of the Spirit” is the evidence that the Holy Spirit is present in the life of a believer. The Scripture says: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23). Jesus said, “By their fruit, you shall know them.” (Matthew 7:16). The real evidence of the presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer is the manifestation of the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit cannot be faked, but speaking in ‘tongues’ as we have it today can be faked. Today, there are so many people who claim to speak in ‘tongues’ but they live in sin and in unrighteousness, and there is no fruit of the Spirit in their lives, yet they speak in tongues everyday. Are we supposed to believe that these people are even born again? Of what benefit is speaking in tongues without the fruit of the Spirit such as LOVE? Paul says, “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love [fruit of the Spirit], I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Cor. 13:1).In the book of Acts, believers were filled with the Holy Spirit for a purpose — so they could receive supernatural power for evangelistic ministry, not for personal use as we are taught today. In Acts 1:8, Jesus said to the disciples, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes you, and you shall be my witness in Judea, Samaria and to the uttermost parts of the world.” So, the purpose of the Holy Ghost baptism was to give supernatural power to the believers for evangelism with signs and wonders accompanying them. In the early Church, believers did not receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit so that they could sit at home and speak in tongues all day long.

          Tongues are not the evidence of spiritual maturity. Even in the Corinthian church in the first century, tongues were not the evidence of maturity. Even though the Corinthians spoke plenty of tongues, they did not have the fruit of the Spirit. They were immature and carnal Christians even though they spoke a lot of tongues. Paul rebuked them saying, “And, I brethren, could not speak to you as spiritual people but as to carnal, as babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it [solid food], and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, ad divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?” (1 Cor. 3:1-3).

          5. THE IDEA THAT TONGUES ARE NON-HUMAN “HEAVENLY” OR “ANGELIC” SPEECH:

          There is no scriptural support for this view which is based on a faulty interpretation of 1 Corinthians 13:1 and 1 Cor. 14:2.

          In both the book of Acts and 1 Corinthians 14, the same Greek words are used to refer to “tongues”. The uniform use of the word “tongue” in the New Testament shows that human languages are involved. Every time the Greek term glossa is used in the New Testament, if refers to a definite language.

          In addition, the prophecy of Isaiah referred to actual human languages which was a sign to ancient Israel. In 1 Corinthians 14:21, Paul compared speaking in tongues to the prophecy in the book of Isaiah. He wrote: “In the law it is written: ‘With men of other tongues and other lips I will speak to this people; And yet, for all that, they will not hear Me,’ says the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 14:21). This refers to Isaiah 28:11-12. When Paul quoted from Isaiah 28:11-12 in 1 Corinthians 14:21, he referred to an incident involving a real human language (the Assyrian language) which was unknown to the Jews. The Jews could not understand the foreign tongues of the Assyrians. Paul’s point is this: just as the Assyrian foreign tongue was a sign to unbelieving Jews in the Old Testament, so also speaking in tongues is a sign to unbelievers in the New Testament. Because the Assyrian tongues were real human languages, the speaking in tongues in the New Testament must also be real human languages, not ecstatic or “heavenly” languages.

          Furthermore, in 1 Cor. 14:22, Paul says “Tongues are a sign for unbelievers”. The crucial question we need to ask is: is it possible for non-human “heavenly languages” to serve as a sign for unbelievers? The answer is NO. An unbeliever cannot relate to a “heavenly” speech that he knows nothing about? If the tongues spoken by the 120 disciples on the day of Pentecost had been non-human angelic speech, nobody would have paid attention to it; the crowd of diaspora Jews gathered in Jerusalem on that day would not have paid any attention to it. What attracted the attention of the crowd of unbelievers on the day of Pentecost was the simple fact that they could hear their individual native languages being spoken by the disciples who had never previously learnt such language. This was truly miraculous! Can you imagine, for example, someone who has never previously learned Russian language suddenly speaking Russian so fluently? That is the miracle in the gift of tongues, and it is a supernatural miracle that can easily serve as a sign for unbelievers. There is nothing miraculous about speaking a meaningless so-called “angelic” language which no human being understands. That is not the genuine gift of tongues described in the Bible. Tongues, both in the book of Acts and in 1 Corinthians, are foreign human languages spoken by someone who has never previously learned how to speak that language. Such a miracle can easily attract the attention of unbelievers and convince them that this is indeed an act of God. This was what happened on the day of Pentecost.

          The only way tongues can serve as a sign for unbelievers is when tongues are real human languages previously unlearned by the speaker. When an unbeliever who speaks that language hears someone who has not previously learned the language speaking it so fluently, the unbeliever will see this as a miracle and will be convinced that the Gospel message is indeed from God. This was what happened on the day of Pentecost, and it is exactly what Paul is saying in 1 Cor. 14:22. Speaking a non-human ecstatic ‘heavenly’ language cannot serve as a sign for unbelievers. This proves that genuine tongues are not non-human “heavenly” languages. Instead, they are real human languages.

          Some Pentecostals try to use 1 Cor. 13:1 to support their view that tongues are non-human “angelic” languages. 1 Cor. 13:1 says: “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.” Trying to use this verse to support the doctrine that tongues are angelic languages does not work, because Paul is only using hyperbole to speak hypothetically in this verse. How do we know this? We know this because in the very next verse, he says: “And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” (1 Cor. 13:2). So, in verse 2, Paul says “Though I I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge. . “. The question is: did Paul really understand all mysteries and all knowledge? Of course, he did not. No human being can understand all mysteries and all knowledge. Only God understands all mysteries and all knowledge. Indeed, Paul himself admits in verse 14 of this same chapter that he only knew in part, not in full, which confirms that he did not understand all knowledge nor did he understand all mysteries. So, it’s obvious that Paul’s statement in verse 2 regarding ‘understanding all mysteries and all knowledge” is hyperbolic and hypothetical. And since his statement in verse 2 is hyperbolic and hypothetical, you can be sure that his statement in verse 1 about speaking in the tongues of angels is also hyperbolic and hypothetical. In verse 1, Paul is not saying that he actually spoke in the tongues of angels. Paul’s point in verse 1 is: “Even if it were possible for me to speak in the tongues of both men and angels, but I do not have love, it all amounts to nothing.” Thus, 1 Cor. 13:1 does not prove that the tongues are angelic languages. We must be careful in the way we interpret scriptures because the Bible admonishes us to “rightly divide the Word” of truth.

          Another bible verse that Pentecostals/Charismatics use in support of their view that tongues are non-human angelic languages is 1 Cor. 14:2. But I believe they completely misunderstand what 1 Cor. 14:2 is saying. In 1 Corinthians 14:2, Paul says: “For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for [because] no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries”. The Pentecostal understanding of this verse is that the tongues-speaker is speaking a tongue that no human being on earth can understand, and the reason that nobody can understand the speech is because it is a heavenly language that only God understands. If we look at this verse carefully, we will see that it has two parts — the first part is the main clause that says “He who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God”. The second part is a subordinate clause that says: “For [because] no one understands the tongue-speaker”. So, the second part of the sentence (i.e., the subordinate clause) gives us the reason for the first part. In order words, Paul is telling us that the reason why the tongues-speaker is speaking to God and not to man, is because no one understands what the speaker is saying. The reason is NOT because the tongues are heavenly languages that only God understands. The reason is not because the tongues are not meant for human beings. The reason that the speaker is speaking to only God is simply because there is no one in the congregation who can understand what the speaker is saying in tongues. Paul did not say, “No one understands the tongues-speaker because he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God.” But many Pentecostals erroneously reverse the order of Paul’s statement, such that the main clause (i.e., the first part of Paul’s statement) becomes the subordinate clause (i.e., it becomes the reason/second part of the sentence) while the actual reason becomes the main clause.. This switch changes the meaning of the statement. After reversing the order of the statement, the new statement becomes: “No one understands the tongues-speaker because he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God.” But that’s not what the verse says. I think the best way to illustrate this point is to use a simple example like reversing the order of the this sentence: “I am hungry because I haven’t had my lunch”. When you reverse the order of this example sentence, the meaning will change as shown below:

          – I am hungry because I haven’t had my lunch.
          – I haven’t had my lunch because I am hungry.

          The two sentences in the above example do not mean the same thing because the order of the main clause and the subordinate clause has been reversed. This is exactly what Pentecostals/Charismatics have done to 1 Cor. 14:2. By swapping the main clause for the subordinate clause in 1 Cor. 14:2, Pentecostals end up changing the meaning of Paul’s statement.

          In interpreting 1 Corinthians 14, we must not forget that the context of Paul’s discourse in the entire chapter is public worship in the church, not private devotion. Throughout this chapter, Paul is comparing and contrasting the gifts of prophecy and tongues in the context of public worship during a church service. This fact must be at the back of our minds as we interpret this passage.

          So, what exactly is the meaning of Paul’s statement in verse 2? In order to better understand Paul’s argument in verse 2, we need to go back to verse 1 and begin reading from verse 1. In 1 Corinthians 14:1, Paul instructed the Corinthians to “desire spiritual gifts but especially that you may prophesy”. So, right from verse 1, he expresses a clear preference for prophesying over tongues. From his statement in verse 1, it is clear that Paul prefers prophecy to tongues. In the next few verses (verses 2-4), he goes on to explain why he prefers prophecy to tongues. The first reason he gives is in verse 2 where he says he who speaks in a tongue [without interpretation] is not speaking to men but to God and, according to Paul, the reason that the tongues-speaker is not speaking to men but to God is: “for [because] no one [in the congregation] understands him [the speaker]” (1 Cor. 14:2). Note that in verse 2, Paul is not arguing that the reason the tongue-speaker is ‘not speaking to men but to God’ is because the tongues are addressed to God. We know that tongues are addressed to God. (The account in Acts 2 as well as Paul’s statements in 1 Cor. 14:14-17 suggest that the content of tongues could be prayer, praise/worship, singing [praises] to God, blessing God, and thanksgiving, all of which are addressed to God). But Paul’s reason in 1 Cor. 14:2 for saying that he who speaks in tongues does not speak to men but to God is NOT because tongues are addressed to God. He gives us a different reason in 1 Cor. 14:2. His reason is, “for [because] no man understands him”. That is, no one in the congregation understands the tongue-speaker. Paul’s point here seems to be that the speaker is not speaking to the people in the church congregation because he is speaking a foreign language that other people in the congregation cannot understand. Since God understands all languages and since it is only God who understands the language the tongue-speaker is speaking, it means the speaker is, effectively, speaking to God only since there is no native speaker of that particular language in that local church. So, the reason why Paul says “he who speaks in a tongue [without interpretation] does not speak to men but to God” is because no one in the congregation can understand the language the speaking is speaking. Paul is not saying that there is no human being on earth who can understand the tongues. Instead, he is saying that there is nobody in that particular church congregation who can understand the tongues.

          The Greek word “oudeis” translated “no one” or “no man” in this verse can mean “no one from among a specific group of people” (as in Matthew 22:46) and it can also mean “no human being on earth”. It is the context of the passage that determines which of these two possible senses of the word is implied. In the context of 1 Cor. 14:2, it means “no one among the members of the Corinthian church congregation”. This understanding of verse 2 shows that the tongues being described in 1 Corinthians 14 is of the same nature as the one experienced on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. The only reason that people understood the tongues on the day of Pentecost was because a crowd of diaspora Jews had gathered in Jerusalem from many different nations where the tongues were native languages; the crowd on the day of Pentecost was a very diverse and multilingual crowd from many different countries of the world. By contrast, the congregation in the local Corinthian church was not as diverse or multilingual as the crowd that assembled on the day of Pentecost. The local Corinthian church in the first century could be regarded as a monolingual group since most of them likely understood only Greek; most of the people in the Corinthian church must have spoken and understood only one language — Greek. So, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that tongues in the Corinthian church were not understood by the people in the church whereas tongues on the day of Pentecost were understood by the crowd. Imagine a tongues-speaker speaking Swahili (an African language) in the first century Corinthian church; there is nobody who could have understood Swahili in the church at Corinth in the first century, not even the speaker himself. Only God would have understood it. In effect, the speaker who was speaking Swahili was communicating with no one else besides God, unless there was someone in the congregation with the gift of interpretation I believe this is what Paul means by “He who speaks in a tongue [in the local church] does not speak to man but to God, for [because] no one understands him . .” The phrase “no one understands him” does not mean absolutely no human being on earth understands him. It simply means nobody in the church congregation understands what the speaker is saying.

          6. INCONSISTENCIES IN THE PENTECOSTAL TEACHING ON TONGUES:

          I find several disturbing inconsistencies in the Pentecostal teaching on tongues. When Pentecostals want to support their view that speaking in tongues is meant for all believers, they are happy to go to the book of Acts to try and use the few episodes of tongues-speaking in Acts to support this view. But when it comes to determining the nature of tongues (i.e., whether tongues are real human languages or “heavenly” languages), Pentecostals abandon the book of Acts — the ignore the very clear lesson from the book of Acts that shows that tongues are foreign human languages previously unlearned by the speaker. Instead, they insist that tongues are non-human meaningless speech which no human being on earth can understand. What inconsistency! Their view on the nature of tongues is based on a misinterpretation of a few verses in 1 Corinthians 14.

          Another inconsistency in the Pentecostal view on tongues is the idea that the word “tongues” mean one thing in 1 Corinthians chapter 12, but means something different in 1 Corinthians chapter 14. According to them, tongues in 1 Corinthians 12 refers to “diverse tongues” for public ministry whereas tongues in 1 Corinthians 14 refers to prayer language tongues for private use. So, in one chapter (1 Corinthians chapter12), Pentecostals say speaking in tongues means one thing; then in another chapter (1 Corinthians 14) of the same letter, they say speaking in tongues means a different thing. There is no consistency in this type of interpretation; it is selective and designed to support a preconceived idea. The only reason that the Pentecostals/Charismatics are doing this is because they want to defend their view that every believer should speak in tongues. They are willing to get around 1 Cor. 12:30 to defend that view. This is not how we interpret scriptures! We must let the Bible speak for itself. The Scripture cannot contradict itself. Remember that 1 Corinthians was a single letter; Paul did not divide it into chapters. (It was the translators who divided it into chapters). So, chapter 12 and chapter 14 are part of the same letter. Paul could not have used the word “tongues” to mean different things in the same letter. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul gave us a list of spiritual gifts and he listed “diverse kind of tongues” as the only gift of tongues (1 Cor. 12;10). He did not list two types of tongues. How people came up with the theory of two types of tongues is beyond me. It is clear that the “diverse kinds of tongues” which Paul listed in 1 Corinthians 12 is the same tongues that he is talking about in 1 Corinthians 14. He is not describing a different type of tongues in 1 Corinthians 14. And he already told us in 1 Cor. 12:30 that this gift of tongues is not meant for all believers. Therefore, the idea that 1 Cor. 14:2 is referring to private tongues for all believers is not supported by scriptures.

          Another problem with the theory of two types of tongues is that it implies that even within chapter 14, Paul is describing two types of tongues. For example, in 1 Cor. 14:2, he is referring to private tongues but a few verses down the passage in 1 Cor. 14:5 as well as in verses 26-27, he switches to a different type of tongues (public tongues) in the same message? How could Paul have described two types of tongues within the same passage? There must be consistency in scriptural interpretation.

          7. USING SUBTLE TECHNIQUES TO COAX/COAH PEOPLE TO SPEAK IN TONGUES:

          I have seen and heard of some Pentecostals using subtle tactics to pressurize people to speak in tongues. They pray for people to speak in tongues but when these people do not speak in tongues, they say it is because they have refused to “release” their tongues. Sometimes you find Pentecostal ministers saying things like: “Just release your tongue and begin to speak whatever comes into your mouth. Just say anything that comes into your mouth”. I believe such tactics are unbiblical. Is there any evidence that those who spoke in tongues in the Bible had to be coached so that they could learn how to do it? There does not appear to be any coaching or practice required, either on the day of Pentecost or on any other subsequent tongues-speaking, whether in Acts or Corinthians. It was miraculous and one doesn’t need to be coached to manifest a miracle. Either one can do it or else cannot. Nobody coached the 120 disciples to speak in tongues on the day of Pentecost; they suddenly found themselves speaking foreign tongues (languages) that they had not previously learned; they did not practice for it in advance nor were they coached in advance; it happened supernaturally and they could not resist it. The same thing happened to the Gentiles in Cornelius’ house (Acts 10), and the disciples of John the Baptist (Acts 19). One does not need to be coached to manifest a miracle. So, why do people today even attempt to coach or instruct others on how to speak in tongues? Doesn’t that sound phony? It certainly does to me.

          8. THE MISTAKEN INTERPRETATION OF ROMANS 8:26:

          Romans 8:26 says: “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” This is another scripture commonly misinterpreted by Pentecostals/Charismatics. They say this scripture supports using tongues in one’s personal prayers. But the question is: how does the Holy Spirit praying for us with “groanings which cannot be uttered” equate to speaking in tongues? Tongues are UTTERED whereas the Holy Spirit’s intercession for us is with groanings which CANNOT BE UTTERED. I see no relationship between Romans 8:26 and speaking in tongues.

          9. FAULTY INTERPRETATION OF JUDE 20-21:

          Another scripture that is often misinterpreted by Pentecostals in support of the “prayer language” doctrine is Jude 20-21. This scripture says: “But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.” Pentecostals usually quote only the first part of this text “Building up yourselves in your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit . .”, and they ignore the rest of the text. Just because the writer of Jude listed “praying in the Holy Spirit” next to “building up yourselves”, Pentecostals conclude that the way we build up ourselves is BY praying in the Holy Spirit. But this verse does not say “Building up yourselves BY praying in the Holy Spirit.” If you look at this verse, you will see that it lists three different things that need to be done while awaiting the mercy of God unto eternal life: (1) building up yourselves (2) praying in the Holy Spirit, and (3) keeping yourselves in the love of God. It doesn’t say that the way you build up yourselves is by praying in the Holy Spirit. It says, first, build up yourselves; secondly, pray in the Holy Spirit; thirdly, keep yourselves in the love of God. How do we build up ourselves? It is not by speaking in tongues in our private prayers. Instead, it is by studying and meditating on the Word of God. Acts 20:32 says: “So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the Word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.”

          One way to understand my point regarding Jude 20-21 is to consider this statement: “Eating healthy meals, exercising regularly, and avoiding cigarette smoking, keep yourself healthy.” This statement lists three things that we should do in order to stay healthy. It would be wrong to say that the first item on the list (eating healthy meals) is achieved by doing the second item of the list (exercising regularly). I mean, it would be incorrect to say that the way you eat healthy meals means is BY exercising regularly. I believe this is exactly how the Pentecostals are erroneously interpreting Jude 20-21. This passage lists three things that believers need to do while awaiting the mercy of God unto eternal life. The Pentecostals say the first item on the list (i.e., building up yourselves on your most holy faith) is achieved by doing the second item on the list (praying in the Holy Spirit). The fact that the two items are placed next to each other on the list does not mean one leads to the other. It’s just a list of items. It’s inaccurate to assume that the first item on the list is achieved by doing the second item on the list.

          The evidence is overwhelming that the Pentecostal theology on tongues is unbiblical and it is man-made. Period. May God help us to “rightly divide” His Word.

          Reply
          • I appreciate the pursuit of knowledge that is of this website’s purpose. I’ve learned much from the high level of integrity aimed at knowing truth, and the communication/documentation about it. Thank you Victor, for your explanation on common erroneous notions in today’s popular perception about “tongues.” I too am one who believes the Pentecostal theology on tongues has been unbiblical.

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