I had some awesome fellowship and stimulating discourse this evening with another brother in the faith and we discussed a lot that I will probably dwell on and think about for a while. He is another brother who spent some time in the charismatic/Pentecostal church before joining our little reformed church and one of the things he said kind of surprised me. He attended and Assemblies of God church and said that to be in a position of leadership or teaching in that church, you had to publicly (like before the church) demonstrate the ability to “speak in tongues”. My words here are chosen carefully. I do think that there is a spiritual gift that God has given and may still give that allows His servants to proclaim His glory in languages that they have never spoken and had no knowledge of, to establish Himself to people who are essentially foreigners to the gospel of His grace. I do not think that is the gift that is commonly presented by Pentecostal charismatics who babble meaningless sounds that can be understood by none, and I do not hold to the view that there are two types of tongues: the first kind that I spoke of (the Biblical tongues of Acts), and the “private prayer language” interpretation of the first epistle to the Corinthians. I think that is a misreading of the text, but I do not claim to be an authority on the issue.
The reason that I have come to this conclusion is that all of Scripture seems to share this common thread and theme—it is ALL to God’s glory. That is, everything that is recorded in Scripture has been to glorify God. In conjunction with the revelation of God’s glorious nature is the direct contrast of man’s completely corrupt and sinful nature. Every vain attempt of man to glorify himself, God strips away and reveals the same prideful sin-infested corruption that Satan himself was guilty of when he was cast out of heaven. But let the Scripture speak for itself, for it truly says it best.
Psalm 53 says:
Psa 53:1 The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God,” They are corrupt, and have committed abominable injustice; There is no one who does good.
Psa 53:2 God has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men To see if there is anyone who understands, Who seeks after God.
Psa 53:3 Every one of them has turned aside; together they have become corrupt; There is no one who does good, not even one.
From Romans 3:
Rom 3:10 as it is written, “THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE;
Rom 3:11 THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD; Rom 3:12 ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS; THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD, THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE.”
Rom 3:13 “THEIR THROAT IS AN OPEN GRAVE, WITH THEIR TONGUES THEY KEEP DECEIVING,” “THE POISON OF ASPS IS UNDER THEIR LIPS”; Rom 3:14 “WHOSE MOUTH IS FULL OF CURSING AND BITTERNESS”;
Rom 3:15 “THEIR FEET ARE SWIFT TO SHED BLOOD, Rom 3:16 DESTRUCTION AND MISERY ARE IN THEIR PATHS,
Rom 3:17 AND THE PATH OF PEACE THEY HAVE NOT KNOWN.”
Rom 3:18 “THERE IS NO FEAR OF GOD BEFORE THEIR EYES.”
A simple summary that even my five year old can understand: God is great; man is not. God is holy and just; man is a sinner and corrupt. God created man for His own glory. Man did not create a god for the glory of man.
Now in speaking on tongues, this idea—nay, this requirement—that a man must publicly demonstrate and display this ability before he can be considered a leader or a teacher, a preacher (or a pastor), how does this fit into the Biblical picture I just described that even my five year old can grasp? Does this purpose to glorify God and to communicate His holiness, or does this purpose to glorify a man and communicate something holy about him? Where is the emphasis? It seems to me that the emphasis is on the person who speaks meaningless syllables, which purpose is to elevate him as somehow more godly than the one who does not. It does nothing to honor and glorify God, and in fact (I think) it actually steals the glory from God for the Biblical use of tongues in the New Testament, a gift given to assist in the establishment of His Church because it undermines their purpose.
I could spend more time on this, and I may return to it again, but it’s late and there are other things we talked about that I want to record. Another one was how the Pentecostal charismatic church wants to take what happened on the day of Pentecost in the book of Acts and make it the cornerstone of the church. In fact, interestingly enough, many Pentecostal churches use the term Cornerstone in their name. But the cornerstone of the Church was never supposed to be some supposed spiritual gift, nor men in possession of it. This reliance on an outward manifestation (or visible proof) that can be so easily manipulated or counterfeited is actually quite similar to the Pharisees who proudly bore their holiness by their outward appearances of holiness, while inside they were full of poison (hence the term, “brood of vipers”).
Jesus spoke to the Pharisees of his day in parables, saying:
Mat 21:33 “Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who PLANTED A VINEYARD AND PUT A WALL AROUND IT AND DUG A WINE PRESS IN IT, AND BUILT A TOWER, and rented it out to vine-growers and went on a journey.
Mat 21:34 “When the harvest time approached, he sent his slaves to the vine-growers to receive his produce.
Mat 21:35 “The vine-growers took his slaves and beat one, and killed another, and stoned a third.
Mat 21:36 “Again he sent another group of slaves larger than the first; and they did the same thing to them.
Mat 21:37 “But afterward he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’
Mat 21:38 “But when the vine-growers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.’
Mat 21:39 “They took him, and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.
Mat 21:40 “Therefore when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vine-growers?”
Mat 21:41 They *said to Him, “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end, and will rent out the vineyard to other vine-growers who will pay him the proceeds at the proper seasons.”
Mat 21:42 Jesus *said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures, ‘THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE CHIEF CORNER stone; THIS CAME ABOUT FROM THE LORD, AND IT IS MARVELOUS IN OUR EYES’?
Mat 21:43 “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it.
Mat 21:44 “And he who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.”
Mat 21:45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they understood that He was speaking about them.
Mat 21:46 When they sought to seize Him, they feared the people, because they considered Him to be a prophet.
It is the Lord who is the chief cornerstone. Not an experience, a manifestation, a gift, or an event, but CHRIST.
This tied into another thread of our conversation, that the teachings of Christ and His direct revelation in the gospels should be the foundation of our faith and understanding of doctrine. The epistles are important, but the foundation needs to be the gospel and the Word of the Lord. The epistles are to rest on the foundation; they should fit together neatly with the direct revelation and teaching of Christ. The gospels should not be retrofitted to rest upon the epistles because the Church is not the foundation for Christ; Christ is the foundation of the Church. And this, I think is the problem with the Pentecostal approach to theology.
Now, I will not go so far to say all Pentecostals are victims or purveyors of poor theology, although unfortunately it seems that a great many are. However, I think that one can hardly disagree, regardless of your stance on the charismata and which way you lean regarding spiritual gifts (especially so-called sign gifts), that there have been way too many frauds and phonies among those who claim these gifts, and such claims are almost always for their own glory. The latest obvious example receiving attention is Todd Bentley, but throughout the last couple decades, there is quite a lengthy list of Holy Ghost Hucksters who all seem to share the same fascination for “gifts” such as healing, tongues, prophecy, and miracles. These men (and women) make a name for themselves that is spoken more than The Name by their followers, but God has witnessed to them and already condemned them with His Word.
Dan Phillips wrote a really nice article discussing the “signs-and-wonders charismatics” that I think is worth the read. I do not claim to have all the answers, nor to be perfect in all my views or understanding. I, too, seek a better and a Biblical understanding of these things, but I am always concerned when I seek men and women seeking to glorify their own names by attempting to deceive others “for the glory of God”. God does not need us to lie to glorify Him. God does not need us to glorify Him. Period. Although I absolutely agree with the first principle of the Shorter Westminster Catechism, that man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, God does not need us to glorify Him. He is still the God of glory with or without our praise, with or without our existence. Jesus testified to this, as well:
Luk 19:37 As soon as He was approaching, near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen,
Luk 19:38 shouting: “BLESSED IS THE KING WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
Luk 19:39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.”
Luk 19:40 But Jesus answered, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!”
All of God’s creation testifies to His glory. Men do not need to make up stories and tell lies about God to bring Him glory. Of course, this is not the real reason they do it. They do it because they want the glory for themselves; this is always the motivation for their deception, but they are so deceived that they convince their conscience that what they are doing, they are doing to bring glory to His name. This was and is the way of the Pharisee… then and now.
Peace & Blessings,