They Heard Them Speak With Tongues
By: Arthur L. Clanton
Are we shortchanging some people by telling them, or by allowing them to believe, they have received the Holy Ghost, when they have not?
The subject of this article is a portion of Acts 10:46, which, in turn, is taken from the account of the receiving of the Holy Ghost by Cornelius and those of his household.
Earlier, on the Day of Pentecost, approximately 120 were gathered in Jerusalem, tarrying for the promise of the Father – the baptism of the Holy Ghost. Suddenly “.. .they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
All true Pentecostals believe that speaking with tongues is the initial sign or evidence of the baptism of the Holy Ghost. This belief is based upon what is stated in Acts 2:4, 10:46, 19:6, and upon what is unquestionable implied in Acts 8:17, 18. To put it another way: Pentecostals are fully persuaded that those who have not spoken with tongues have not received the baptism of the Holy Ghost.
The importance we attach to receiving this experience, and its evidence, is reflected in our Fundamental Doctrine, which reads:
The basic and fundamental doctrine of this organization shall be the Bible standard of full salvation, which is repentance, baptism in water by immersion in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and the baptism of the Holy Ghost with the initial sign of speaking with other tongues as the Spirit gives utterance.
Since we are convinced that the receiving of the Holy Ghost is essential to full salvation, and since we are also convinced that those who receive this gift will speak with other tongues, we are faced with certain unavoidable responsibilities.
We must PREACH and TEACH the essentiality of receiving the Holy Ghost. In the New Testament, the first recorded instance of preaching the Holy Ghost baptism is found in Matthew 3:11. The preacher was John the Baptist.
Later, when Paul went to Ephesus, he found twelve disciples of John the Baptist who had not even heard that there was a Holy Ghost (Acts 19:2). Apparently, these twelve had never heard John personally, but had been converted and baptized by one or more of his disciples. But somewhere, between the preaching of John and the conversion and baptism of the twelve, part of John’s message – the promise of the baptism of the Holy Ghost – had been lost. The twelve men, therefore, had to admit that they knew nothing of this glorious experience.
May no one who ever attends any of our churches have to make such a statement. Let the trumpet give forth that certain sound, so that all who hear will know about God’s unspeakable gift.
We must PREACH and TEACH that all who receive the Holy Ghost will speak with other tongues, and make it clear just what such speaking means. It should be taught that speaking with tongues is not, as some call it, gibberish. Nor is it the rapid, over and over speaking of a word of praise, or any part thereof, until one’s tongue is “tangled” and his speech becomes unintelligible. To speak with tongues is to miraculously speak, under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, a real language that has not been learned. This can be any earthly language (perhaps a dead one) or even the language of angels (1 Corinthians 13:1).
In teaching this subject, we should warn those who do not have the baptism of the Holy Ghost to avoid the error of placing improper emphasis upon speaking with tongues. We should admonish them to focus their attention upon the GIVER and the GIFT, rather than upon the evidence of the gift. It should be made clear to them that they are not to TRY to speak with tongues. They should be taught to repent, and then to pray and praise God, with the expectation of receiving the Holy Ghost immediately.
One who has repented, and who will believe God, can receive the Holy Ghost anywhere. During a spiritual service, such a one should join in the worship, and expect God to fill him. If he does not receive the Holy Ghost as soon as he repents, he should be baptized in the name of Jesus, and praise God as he comes up out of the water, believing that God will fill him then.
In any case, his attention should be focused upon the gift, and not upon the evidence of the gift.
We should help those who desire the baptism of the Holy Ghost, but we should do so in a scriptural manner. This includes praying with and for them, urging them to pray and worship, and encouraging them to believe God. It also includes the laying on of hands by those qualified to do so, if the Spirit so moves.
Altar workers have no Scriptural right to shake the chins of those praying for the Holy Ghost. They have no Bible basis for urging them to talk “faster and faster.” This is, in effect, trying to make them speak with tongues. And such has the added harmful effect of causing the “seeker” to concentrate upon trying to speak with tongues, rather than upon worshiping God.
On a radio program, I recently heard a well-known Trinitarian Pentecostal preacher say that God had revealed to him a new way for people to receive the Holy Ghost. It went something like this: All those who had received the Holy Ghost were to form a line. All those who had not received this experience, and who desired it were asked to join hands with the one in front of him.
At a given signal, those who had received the Holy Ghost were to begin speaking with tongues. Those who had not received the experience were told to speak no more English, but to begin, by the power of their own wills, to speak with tongues, as those in front of them were doing.
Such a plan is based entirely upon the power of psychological suggestion, and is wrong. Speaking with tongues is not of God unless it occurs as the Spirit gives utterance.
We should never tell a person he has received the Holy Ghost, or allow him to believe he has received the experience, if he has not. Is this ever done? Yes!
One tragic result of this is that the person sooner or later meets a trial or temptation, and not having the Spirit within to give him strength, he fails to overcome. Is it possible that many leave the church because they did not actually receive the Holy Ghost in the beginning?
Consider another aspect. Suppose there are those who mistakenly believe they have received the Holy Ghost. Having strong wills, and perhaps not being subjected to the severe trials faced by others, they remain in the church, and live good moral lives by their own power. Still, they are unspiritual because they are not filled with the Spirit. If the Lord tarries, and the number of such increases, what will our church be in a generation or two?
In view of these things, it is important that we LISTEN. How did Peter and the Jews with him know that Cornelius and his household had received the Holy Ghost? “They HEARD them speak with tongues…”
Of course there are times when the gathering is large, and it is well-nigh impossible to hear whether one is speaking with tongues. But should not someone always try to get close to this person, and LISTEN?
We must do our best to see that all who come under the influence of our ministry REALLY receive the Holy Ghost. To do anything less than this is to shortchange them for time and eternity.
(The above material appeared in the October 1992 issue of the Ohio Apostolic News.)
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