It was quite strange and at the same time somewhat intriguing that an Uncle came home on holiday as usual praying for hours every morning. He would not only pray fervently but speak in strange tongues that didn’t sound like any particular language. While he remained his pleasant self and even a more lovable personality, we also noticed that his girlfriends were gone, circle of male friends changed and demeanor transformed for the better. One thing that however we could not deal with as his relatives in our family, remained the strange language in which he prayed for hours.
It wasn’t long when he began to invite us (nephews and nieces) one after the other, for private discussions about the word of God and one after the other, we were being converted to his brand of Christianity, which we would later know to be Pentecostal and charismatic. Most of our extended family are born again, filled with the Holy Ghost and speaking in tongues today. Although we had thought he was insane to be speaking in an unintelligible language, we could not resist the power of his witness to us and became converts to the same. Before long, we would join him in fervent prayers towards the salvation of our loved ones. It has been almost 40 years today and the fruit of it had been nothing but supernatural empowerment and character transformation. If it is by their fruits that we shall no them, this experience certainly has birthed good fruits. Our extended family has many pastors and are all Pentecostals and charismatics except for a few.
According to Wikipedia, Glossolalia is described as :
‘The phenomenon of (apparently) speaking in an unknown language, especially in religious worship. It is practised especially by Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians’.
The powerful founder of the Apostolic Faith Missions of Southern Africa (John G Lake) said, ‘speaking in tongues has been for me in the most, the making of my ministry’. Over a period of running a healing home in Spokane, Washington, USA, over one hundred thousand miracles were medically verified. In 5 years of ministry in South Africa, he and his team planted 125 churches. It also fell within the outbreak of the ‘Bobanic plague’ which was similar to the ‘Ebola Epidemic’. John G Lake and his team were not only supernaturally insulated from it, they buried many dead people without any protection and survived it. It became a subject of scientific investigation which discovered the germs died upon impact on their bodies. The above miracles are highly referenced on the internet. Such an exceptional impact resulted from spending hours daily, praying in the Spirit.
The worlds greatest challenge with the phenomenon remains the fact it does not make sense to speak a language you don’t know and yet believe you are either speaking to God or speaking for God. It has therefore appealed more to the intelligentsia that the fruit of the Spirit is the true measure of the in filling of the Spirit and not Glossolalia. The scripture however asserts that whoever speak in tongues speaks unto God 1 Corinthians 14.2. While the fruit of the Spirit attests to the impact of the Spirit on our lives, speaking in tongues remains the initial evidence of receding the Holy Spirit baptism and an accompanying grace with it that ensures the maintenance of it and of spiritual development in the supernatural.
Another argument against modern day Glossolalia lies with the fact that unlike the day of Pentecost, the tongues being spoken today does not sound like any other people’s language. It is different from what happened on the day of Pentecost when every attendee of the Passover festival heard the disciples of Jesus in their own languages. However, that was an isolated incidence as the records of the same experience in Cornelius house in Acts 10 and Ephesus in Acts 19 were not accompanied by the same phenomenon of speaking specific earthly languages. We cannot use an isolated incidence to generalize nor establish a doctrine. As much as Glossolalia sounds ‘gibberish’ to the hearer, it is indeed a spiritual language that Paul said can be a prayer, prophecy if interpreted or giving of thanks to God in 1 Corinthians 14.
I have observed in about 40 years of being in the body of Christ how despite the seeming foolishness and even outright heresy the phenomenon seems to be to many others in the body of Christ, that only Pentecostals and Charismatics operate in other gifts of the Spirit. Miracles, healings and other supernatural manifestations of the Spirit are a rarity in other segments of the body of Christ except among a few cults. In the instance of such cults, their doctrines are defective, especially about Christ’s incarnation and redemptive work, or you find extra biblical practices that are out of sync with the doctrine of Christ and the foundational Apostles and Prophet’s who who wrote the New Testament.
The rise and rapid development of Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity from the 19th century till date points to God’s blessing upon it. As the church was unstoppable in the book of Acts, so has this segment of the church been unstoppable. Glossolalia has opened up the world of the supernatural, authenticating the gospel and demonstrating Kingdom power to the unsaved. As the world increasingly grows cynical of organized religion, the need to present the gospel of Christ with the demonstrations of the Spirit and power of God cannot be overemphasized. The gospel must be presented with more intellectualism like Paul did at Athens in Acts 17, but must also be presented with power as done in Ephesus in a citadel of learning as in Acts 19. Glossolalia remains the doorway to the supernatural and the church needs more of it to return to the place of power we see in Acts of the Apostle and usher in the latter rain that will ripen the harvest to precede the return of the Lord (James 5:7).
Many Pentecostal churches do not ensure their converts are baptized in the Holy Spirit and they need to rethink how they do ministry. We must be intentional and deliberate about making room for people to receive the Holy Ghost baptism in our services and particularly after altar call counseling rooms. Our mega churches in particular who are unable for the lack of space to make traditional altar calls should ensure they minister Holy Ghost baptism in small groups and in their Leadership development programs.
Next week, I want to re-examine one or two excessive practices among charismatics so as to provoke a re examination of ourselves towards greater productivity both in our spirituality and in our witness before the world. I conclude today by sharing one of my favorite scriptures with you;
“But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit,”