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 What about those having great ministries without speaking in tongues?

John Hoole February 01, 2009

Ecclesiastes 1:9 says, "There is nothing new under the sun." The phrase, "Under the sun," speaks not of the view of Heaven, but of earth - of man. There may be nothing new under the sun from mankind's perspective, but God does not look at things from our point of view. He has said,

"Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert." (Isaiah 43:18-19).

God is always doing new things - He is a God of the new. But, anything He does that is new today will never contradict what He has done in the past. Both in spirit and in purpose, this is true because God never changes.

At the dawn of the twentieth century God did a new thing. It was actually in the early morning of the very first day of the 20th century where the Holy Spirit came upon a group of students in Topeka, Kansas. But, let me not get ahead of myself.

Back in August, 2008, in a lesson titled, The Baptism in the Holy Spirit, I related a story that occurred on that very day (1st day of 20th century). On January 1, 1901, the first day of the new century, the same day the Holy Spirit fell in Topeka, Pope Leo XIII invoked the Holy Spirit by singing the hymn "Veni Creator Spiritus.," which means "Come Holy Spirit." With this he dedicated the 20th century to the Holy Spirit. What I am about to tell you is what Paul Harvey would call, "The Rest of the Story."

Elena Guerra was born in Lucca, Italy in 1833. After becoming a nun, she developed a great devotion to the Holy Spirit. When she compared what the Bible said about the Spirit, she was pained because she heard and read so little about the Holy Spirit in the life of the Catholic Church.

When she was fifty-years-old, she felt constrained to write the pope concerning her desire to bring more attention to the Holy Spirit in the teaching and preaching of the church. Although her pontiff discouraged her from writing, she finally sent her first letter to Pope Leo in 1895. Her desire was that there would be renewed preaching on the Holy Spirit, who [she wrote] is the One who forms the saints."

In the last part of the letter she asserted that "Satan's empire will be broken by the Spirit" and that God would "grant us a long-awaited renewal on the face of the earth." This was the first of twelve confidential letters she sent to the pope between 1895 and 1903. She asked the pope to set an annual 10 days of prayer and meditation to the Holy Spirit during the 10 days between the Ascension and Pentecost. This was to remember the 10 days in the Upper Room where the 120 tarried for the holy Spirit, which was poured out on the day of Pentecost.

In a subsequent letter to the pope she explained her passion. "I take on myself to insist that this union of prayer to the Holy Spirit is exactly that which I dare to ask. To this she added:

"Oh, if ever the "Come, Holy Spirit," which, since the Upper Room and afterwards, the Church has not ceased repeating, could become as popular as the "Hail Mary."

In another letter, Guerra stated:

"Pentecost is not over. In fact it is continually going on in every time and every place, because the Holy Spirit desired to give himself to all men, and all who want Him can always receive Him, so we do not have to envy the apostles and the first believers; we only have to dispose ourselves like them to receive Him well, and He will come to us as He did to them."

In 1897, Pope Leo XIII issued the most elaborate and detailed document on the Holy Spirit ever produced by a pope. As suggested by Elena Guerra, the pope did establish an annual time of devotion to the Holy Spirit.

In October 1900 Guerra wrote the Pope again and suggested that he open the new century by singing the ancient hymn Veni Creator Spiritus ("Come Holy Spirit"). And he did sing that song on the first day of the new century - January 1, 1901.

On that same day on the other side of the world, a group of students in Charles Parham's small Topeka, Kansas Bible school, experienced a Pentecostal outpouring when a young woman was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke "in tongues."

What made this so unique was not just that she spoke in tongues. Others had done that. The uniqueness was for her, and those who soon experienced the same thing, that it served as evidence of a renewal of the New Testament "Baptism in the Holy Spirit." When she spoke "in tongues", she did so believing that it was a biblically based, empowering experience that is distinct and subsequent to salvation.

With this, the Pentecostal century had begun. A few years later, another outpouring occurred in Los Angeles, when William J. Seymour, influenced by Parham, preached the Pentecostal baptism with the Holy Spirit. Within weeks, people were flocking to the Azusa Street mission. This was but one of many Holy Spirit awakenings around the world at the same time.

What happened on the first day of the 20th century spread quickly, with a number of new church associations calling themselves "Pentecostal." And almost all of these new groups, after studying the Scriptures, came to the same conclusion as the students in Topeka, Kansas. That is, that tongues is the first physical evidence of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.

Now, with that fairly lengthy introduction, let me ask you the question we are addressing today.


In our current series, we are considering what the Bible says about the ministry of the Holy Spirit. And, presently, we are attempting to answer a list of questions about speaking in tongues. We are taking our time and studying in greater depth, attempting to find the biblical answers.

Throughout the New Testament, the presence of the Holy Spirit is closely associated with unity among believers. The church faces opposition from outside - not only from fundamental radical Islam, but also from other non-Christian religions, or satanic groups. The apostle John told us the Antichrist is coming and already was beginning to show in his day. The devil will do all he can to divide the church. In the face of this and similar threats, the Church which exemplifies the Spirit of Christ, cannot afford to be divided. Yet, that is just where we find ourselves, with regard to tongues and other Pentecostal beliefs.

For the sake of clarity and understanding, I want to re-state plainly that I believe the baptism in the Holy Spirit is a separate act of God's grace apart from salvation. This experience can, however, occur immediately following salvation, like when Peter ministered to Cornelius and his family in Caesarea (Acts 10:44-46).

All believers receive the Holy Spirit as the agent of regeneration when they first come to Christ. At that time, the Spirit takes up residence in their hearts. Based on my own experience and that of others I know, there is another "receiving" of the Spirit that is available to all believers. This "receiving" or a "baptism" of the Holy Spirit is not for salvation, but fore power in ministry.

I realize that there are many sincere and committed believers who love Jesus who will take issue with me at this very point. It is not my intention to throw the gauntlet of challenge at the feet of any of my brothers or sisters in Christ, especially those who disagree with me on this matter. We have too much in common to let this divide us, and too much work to do to allow it to sunder our fellowship with one another. The central issue is Jesus Christ. Anyone who can affirm with me that "Jesus Christ is Lord," and that the heart and soul of our message is "Jesus Christ, and Him crucified," is my brother or sister in Christ. These affirmations give us the common bond of faith that we need in order to fellowship together. With that, we can work together to advance the Kingdom of our Lord.

My belief that those who affirm that Jesus is Lord and teach the message of Christ and Him crucified, says nothing about their belief in the present ministry of the Holy Spirit, except that we all believe the Spirit takes up residence in us at our salvation. It also says nothing about the Baptism in the Holy Spirit or speaking in tongues. But, even so, we can work together to advance the kingdom of God. But that statement might present a problem without intending to do so.

The Assemblies of God fellowship has what is known as the 16 Fundamental Truths. These are the basic biblical doctrines that are essential to us as Pentecostals. They are posted on the internet for your reading. Let me read Fundamental Truth #7:

All believers are entitled to and should ardently expect and earnestly seek the promise of the Father, the baptism in the Holy Ghost and fire, according to the command of our Lord Jesus Christ. This was the normal experience of all in the early Christian church. With it comes the enduement of power for life and service, the bestowment of the gifts and their uses in the work of the ministry (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4, 8; 1 Corinthians 12:1-31). This experience is distinct from and subsequent to the experience of the new birth (Acts 8:12-17; 10:44-46; 11:14-16; 15:7-9).

This is the first two-thirds of the written statement of Fundamental Truth #7. I stop here for a reason. There is a potentially problematic statement in what I have just read. It is the sentence, "With it comes the enduement of power for life and service, the bestowment of the gifts and their uses in the work of the ministry." This statement, if taken by itself, literally means all power and all gifts for ministry are bestowed following the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. And because Fundamental Truth # 8 states that tongues is the initial evidence of the Baptism, then all power and all gifts for ministry following speaking in tongues.

That would mean that if this is true, all non-Pentecostals have no power or gifts for ministry. If all gifts follow these experiences, then none of them precede. If that statement is taken to the full literal truth, then all non-Pentecostals do their work in the flesh and not in the Spirit.

This cannot possibly be the meaning the original Pentecostal authors of this statement had in mind. And in the year 2000, the Assemblies of God reviewed these issues and wrote a new position paper to address some of these questions.

When I earlier read Fundamental Truth #7, I told you I only read about two-thirds of the full statement. Let me now add the rest. It is comprised of only one fairly lengthy sentence.

"With the baptism in the Holy Ghost come such experiences as an overflowing fullness of the Spirit (John 7:37-39; Acts 4:8), a deepened reverence for God (Acts 2:43; Hebrews 12:28), an intensified consecration to Him and a dedication to His work (Acts 2:42), and a more active love for Christ, for His Word, and for the lost (Mark 16:20)."

I want you to closely understand the words used in this sentence. The language here is important. It speaks of something extra - something added on. With the Baptism comes:

o overflowing fullness

o deepened reverence

o intensified consecration … and dedication

o more active love

The authors do not claim all fullness, all reverence, all consecration, and all love comes from the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. Rather, something more is added to what God has already done.

Another alteration to the Assemblies of God Position Paper for the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, is that they now have a section labeled, "Frequently Asked Questions." In this section, 15 questions are answered. I want to read questions #8 and #13.

8. What about truly born-again people who have accomplished great things for the Lord but do not speak in tongues.

13. Can believers who have not experienced the baptism in the Holy Spirit minister with supernatural signs following?

Without actually reading the full answers to these two questions in the Position Paper, let me summarized the answer - "YES" is the answer given to both. What I am about to say about those who have great ministries but who do not speak in tongues, was purposely formulated prior to my reading the position paper.

I know a great number of Christians who have not uttered a word in tongues. And yet they have ministries that glorify God and serve to bring many into the kingdom of God. I also know some Christian that do speak in tongues that don't live very godly lives.

One issue at play here is the difference between the FRUIT of the Spirit and the GIFTS of the Spirit. When a person is born again, the Holy Spirit comes to indwell that person. As you have heard me say previously, all Christians have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them. As the believer yields to the direction of the resident Holy Spirit, the Spirit produces in their lives the Fruit of the Spirit, such as Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, etc. (Galatians 5:22-23). By these godly traits alone, many are used by God to minister to many.

It is not my intention to in any way imply that Christians who do not speak in tongues are any less saved. Nor are they any less in love with Jesus. Those on either side of the issue of speaking in tongues have been greatly influence by their teachers, mentors, parents, pastors, etc. Some see the issue of tongues as something that might be divisive, and for that reason avoid it - taking the easy way out.

Down through church history, there were definitely times when the supernatural seemed quiet. I do believe, however, that throughout that same 2000 years, there was always a residual group, or several groups, who exhibited the supernatural gifts. There were times when many great saints of God were totally unaware of these gifts.

A person's background, their denomination, or some other factors, may influence what a person believes or teaches regarding speaking in tongues.

When I discuss the validity of tongues in the church today, many on the non-tongues side use Billy Graham as an example. Billy Graham has had a tremendous ministry, influencing millions around the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. They argue, "how is it that he has had such an effective ministry, but doesn't speak in tongues?" That is a valid question to be raised. And I am not sure that I have an adequate answer.

I am not aware that Billy Graham has publicly or in his book that he has never spoken in tongues. I can give you a quote out of his book on the Holy Spirit.

"Although there is honest disagreement among Christians about the validity of tongues today, I personally cannot find any biblical justification for saying the gift of tongues was meant exclusively for New Testament times……Indeed, tongues is a gift of the Spirit……Today there are Presbyterian, Baptists, Anglicans, Lutherans, and Methodists, as well as Pentecostals, who speak or have spoken in tongues."

Billy Graham doesn't believe tongues have ceased.

While still discussing the godly man, Billy Graham, let me relate an incident in his life on December 9, 1982. This has been recorded in a book by Vinson Synan - "Voices of Pentecost." (page 62). On that date, Billy Graham spoke at Evangel College in Springfield, Missouri. He had come to the headquarters of the Assemblies of God at the request of Dr. Thomas Zimmerman, the General Superintendent. There was a time constraint due to a press conference that would follow.

Dr. Graham had a 3-point sermon, but because of only having 30 minutes to speak, was able only to get through point number one. He knew that he would not have time to finish the rest. But before he took a seat, a student gave a clear message in tongues, followed by an interpretation given by Pastor D.W. Wartenbee, pastor of Bethel Assembly in Springfield. The benediction was given by Evangel President Robert Spence to close the service.

Billy Graham stated to those present with him following the meeting that the message in tongues and interpretation, along with the benediction actually completed his second and third points. And later, on national television, Graham spoke of this event as one of the "three greatest miracles" he had witnessed in his entire ministry.

Let me read from Synan's book an eye-witness account - page 64 & 65. It is told by a state trooper who had been assigned by the State of Missouri assigned to guard Graham.

Some argue against the Pentecostal expression of speaking in tongues with the statement, "that's just your experience." There were periods in church history when few believers spoke in tongues. But wasn't that also "just their experience?"

Sadly, many Christians today are unfamiliar with the manifest presence of God. They have had very little personal experience where the supernatural manifestations occurred. As a result, they have not taken the time to study the Bible on such topics.

There is one other factor as it relates to accepting or discarding the practice of speaking in tongues. We must not base our doctrine on one's experience. That is true for both sides of issue. Just because a person had a great ministry, with many coming into the Kingdom of God, but never experiencing the ability to speak in tongues, should not be used to argue against that practice. Neither should the other side base their belief in speaking in tongues based on experience.

A doctrine must be based on the Word of God alone. But the Word of God must also be put into practice in our daily lives. That means that experience is not negated entirely. I had an earlier lesson, titled, "Balancing the Word and Experience." You can read it on the internet.

To close our lesson, let me say that through the years I have heard many people ask questions like, "Should all Christians speak in tongues?" Or they ask, "Can't we get along just fine as believers without all that stuff?" Or, "Is speaking in tongues the only way for us to 'connect' with the Holy Spirit?"

At the heart of these questions lies the old debate over the present role and ministry of the Holy Spirit in the church. Many believers contend that being baptized in the Spirit is not "necessary" for a Christian. And they claim that they can live satisfying effective Christian lives without speaking in tongues.

For me, however, this begs the question, "Why settle for less than the best?" If the baptism of the Holy Spirit, along with speaking in tongues and all its other advantages, is readily available to all believers, why would we not want to avail ourselves of everything it has to offer?

1 Corinthians 14:5 NKJV

5 I wish you all spoke with tongues,...

1 Corinthians 14:39 NKJV

39 Therefore, brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak with tongues.

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