The Pentecostal Experience

Answers to Some Very Pertinent Questions About the Pentecostal Experience

"I believe love is more important than speaking with other tongues and the other gifts of the Spirit. Didn't Paul say that the way of love is the more excellent way? I'm not interested in spiritual gifts - I have love."

This is another common way in which critics seek to justify their rejection of speaking with tongues. Nevertheless, when the light of the Bible is thrown upon such statements, the confusion of thought which produces them becomes obvious.

A verse commonly quoted to support the above contentions is 1 CORINTHIANS 13:1, which reads: "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity (love), I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal". We agree whole-heartedly, but observe that Paul does not say: "Speaking with tongues has become nothing", but, "I am become nothing". Paul was of a humbler spirit than to suggest that speaking with tongues, a gift from God, was nothing. He was simply pointing out that to operate these wonderful gifts of the Holy Spirit, without showing forth a consistent testimony in the love of God, reduces our testimony to hollow, sounding brass. While a person might have at some time received the spiritual enduements of the Holy Ghost, if he should walk in such a way, though he might still speak with tongues, such speaking is neither a profit to himself nor his hearers, because of the insincerity of his present spiritual life. But to infer that this is a reflection upon speaking with tongues, or any other manifestation of the Holy Spirit, is to insult the gifts of God and to insult the Giver Himself.

An Absurdity

In like manner, in verses 2 and 3 of 1 CORINTHIANS 13, Paul further states that to understand all mysteries, to possess the gift of prophecy, to have faith to move mountains, and to give all our goods to feed the poor, if, as he says, "I have not charity, I am nothing ... it profiteth me nothing". The absurdity of the critics' argument against speaking with tongues on the basis of verse 1, as discussed above, is surely revealed in verses 2 and 3. If we are given reason to reject speaking with tongues in verse 1, then we are given just as much reason in verses 2 and 3 to reject prophecy, understanding and knowledge, Bible faith, and deeds of kindness to the poor. Enough said, and yet it is these kinds of arguments that are foisted upon the unwary to turn them away from the Bible truth of the miraculous manifestations of the Holy Spirit.

1 CORINTHIANS 13, the great love chapter of the New Testament, is not a discussion of love versus the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but is a discussion of the gifts exercised by those who walk in the God-given love of the Spirit, as opposed to the use of these gifts without this love.

"Covet the Gifts"

With regard to "the more excellent way", we read in the last verse of chapter 12: "But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way". Now there is no suggestion here of neglecting the miraculous gifts of the Spirit, but exactly the reverse, nevertheless a "more excellent way" is indicated. The important thing to notice is that up to this point love has not been considered. The apostle Paul is about to show that to seek the gifts as an end in themselves is not the answer, but to walk in the Holy Ghost love of God will mean that these gifts are properly used and properly directed. Instead of being used for mere self-gratification, they will be used as intended to the glory of God, to build us up in our spiritual lives and usefulness for the Kingdom of God, and to edify one another. This is stressed in 1 CORINTHIANS 14. Immediately after speaking of the more excellent way, Paul, as inspired by God, enters into the chapter 13 discourse on the enduring nature of love. Having done this, he then summarises the matter, and defines the "more excellent way" in 1 CORINTHIANS 14:1: "Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts...". Here we see the perfect balance of the operation of spiritual gifts controlled by the divine love of God within the Bible-believer. But never in the Bible do we read the statement, inferred by the critics: "Follow after love, and forget spiritual gifts". To desire spiritual gifts is very much different from rejecting them. In fact, to reject spiritual gifts is not to follow after love at all. To handle the Word of God in this way is not to love God, but is to love ourselves, and to love our own opinions in defiance of the clear statements of His Word.

"Let Him Be Ignorant"

"Speaking in tongues is only gibberish. Those who speak with tongues are weak in their mind. It is all mass hysteria. I once heard of a China-man, etc...."

There is only one answer to this kind of approach. If people are not convinced by all the foregoing, and start to thrash about in such manner, all further argument is futile and vain. The one who is witnessing to the power of God and is confronted with such wild ridicule had better heed the injunction of 1 CORINTHIANS 14:38: "But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant". It seems of necessity, in order to fulfil the Word of God, that there will be such people, for we read: "In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord" (1 CORINTHIANS 14:21).

But to those who have eyes to see, and ears to hear, we read: "Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not" (1 CORINTHIANS 14:22). The exercise of speaking with tongues has more important purposes in the lives of God's people than of being a sign, for they know exactly where they stand with God.

However, as it is manifested by the believers of which the Bible speaks, it is a sign to an unbelieving world of God's power, of God's people, and of God's Gospel. Those who deliberately reject this sign ought to beware lest they be classified according to this verse with those who believe not. Among his final words on this subject of speaking with tongues and the other miraculous manifestations of the Holy Spirit, the apostle Paul, by the Word of the Lord, makes this clear declaration: "If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord" (1 CORINTHIANS 14:37).