The Greek word for 'prophet' means someone who forth-tells God's word - i.e. any person inspired to speak God's words, which at times included foretelling of future events (see 2 Pet. 1:19-21). Thus "prophets" - those with the gift of prophecy -came "from Jerusalem unto Antioch. And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the Spirit that there should be great dearth (famine) throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar. Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren" (Acts 11:27-29). This kind of highly specific prophecy, which had a clear fulfilment within a few years, is quite lacking amongst those who now claim to possess the gift of prophecy; indeed, so sure were the early church that this gift really was possessed amongst them, that they gave their time and money to relieving the hardship which had been prophesied. Few examples of this kind of thing can be found in today's so-called 'spirit filled' churches.
Seeing that the apostles were preaching the good news (Gospel) of God's coming Kingdom of perfection on the earth, it was fitting that they should confirm their message by doing miracles which gave a foretaste of what that time would be like, when "the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap..." (Isa. 35:5,6). For more about conditions in God's Kingdom, see Study 5. When God's Kingdom is established on earth, such promises as these will not be fulfilled in half measure, nor will there be ambiguity over whether the Kingdom is here or not. Therefore God's miraculous confirmation of the message of that Kingdom was in a conclusive, definite form which could not be gainsaid; for this reason many of the miraculous healings performed by the early believers were in the sight of the general public.
A classic example is found in Peter's healing of the lame beggar who was laid each morning at the temple gate. Acts 3:2 mentions that they laid him there daily - so he would have been a familiar sight. Having been healed by Peter's use of the spirit gift, "he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking and leaping...And all the people saw him walking and praising God: and they knew that it was he which sat for alms at the Beautiful gate of the temple: and they were filled with wonder and amazement at that which had happened unto him. And as the lame man which was healed held Peter...all the people ran together unto them in the porch... greatly wondering" (Acts 3:7-11).
Peter then immediately launched into an open-air talk about the resurrection of Christ. Having the unquestionable, irrefutable evidence before them in the form of that healed beggar, we can be sure that they would have taken Peter's words to be those of God. The temple gate at "the hour of prayer" (Acts 3:1) would have been thronged with people, like a shopping mall on a Saturday morning. It was in a place like this that God chose to confirm the preaching of His word by such a clear miracle. Likewise in Acts 5:12 we read that "by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people". The usual claims made by 'Pentecostal' healers and the like revolve around things which have happened in back-street churches rather than on the streets, and in the audience of 'believers' hyped up into a spirit of expectancy for a 'miracle' to occur, rather than before the hard-hearted general public.
Let it be said that the present writer has had considerable experience of discussing these issues with present claimants of spirit possession, and also of witnessing many claims of spirit possession. Yet my 'personal testimony' of seeing many inconclusive 'healings', and at best partial cures, need not be specifically elaborated; any honest member of these churches will admit that a lot of this goes on. On many occasions I have put it to my well-meaning Pentecostal friends, "I'm not unwilling to believe that you might have these great powers. But God has always clearly shown who has His power and who hasn't; so it isn't unreasonable for me to ask you to demonstrate the fact to me - and then I might be more inclined to accept your doctrinal position, which at present I just can't reconcile with Scripture". Never has a clear "demonstration of the spirit and of power" been given me.
By contrast to my attitude, the orthodox Jews of the first century had closed minds to the possibility that Christians possessed God's miraculous spirit gifts. Yet even they had to admit, "This man doeth many miracles" (Jn. 11:47) and, "For that indeed a notable miracle hath been done...is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it" (Acts 4:16) . Likewise those who heard the Apostles speaking in tongues were "confounded" (Acts 2:6). The same does not occur today in response to Pentecostal blabbering. The fact that people more kindly disposed to modern 'Pentecostals' can reasonably deny that they really achieve miracles, is surely a significant point in this debate. If just one miracle hit the headlines throughout Jerusalem, is it not reasonable to suggest that if a true miracle were done in London's Trafalgar Square or Nairobi's Nyaharuru Park, there would then be world-wide recognition that God's miraculous spirit gifts are possessed today? Instead, Pentecostals expect the world to seize upon the following sorts of 'evidence' as reasons for their faith in this:- Being cured (eventually) of stomach ulcers; the process of curing is supposed to have begun after a prayer meeting.
- Deformed limbs growing straight.
- Sight or hearing being improved, although frequently returning to its previous state.
- Depression being lifted.
To these examples must be added the fact that ambulances brought hospital patients to the T.O. Osborn healing crusades in Nairobi, Kenya; the drivers, faced with the ethical dilemma of whether to stay or return, remained - and just as well, for the sufferers received no cure.
Yet the challenge calls out from many publicity posters for such meetings: "Come expecting a miracle!" Psychologically the stage is set for all manner of auto-suggestion and the like. Nowhere in the New Testament is there the slightest hint that such a massive psychological softening-up was needed before a miracle occurred. It is evident that some of those healed in the first century did not have faith - one did not know who Jesus was (Jn. 5:13; 9:36).
A similar bombardment of the psyche is achieved by the mind-warping of repetitious prayers, the rhythm of drums and rousing music. There can be no doubt that any rational awareness of God - and anything else - is blanked out by all this. The writer can recall attending several such meetings in various places, and each time experiencing a cracking headache from the struggle to retain a rational, balanced, Biblical awareness in the face of the temptation to get lost in the rhythm of drums and hand-clapping. That all of this appears to be the necessary prelude for a Pentecostal 'miracle' is proof enough that the 'healings' are a result of emotional and psychological conditioning, rather than the direct operation of God's spirit. By contrast, Peter was able to use the true gift of miracles to heal people as they lay in the streets (Acts 5:15); Paul's use of the miraculous gifts was personally witnessed by an unbelieving Government minister (Acts 13:12,13), as well as by many of the pagans living in the city of Lystra (Acts 14:8-13) . As was required by the very purpose and nature of the spirit gifts, these things were done publicly, and could in no way be shrugged off with any other explanation than to admit that here was God's power being openly displayed by His servants.
The effect of one of Christ's healing miracles was similar: "They were all amazed (those who saw it), and glorified God, saying, We never saw it on this fashion" (Mk. 2:12).
The apostles, rough fishermen that some of them were, received the great commission to go out into all the world, preaching the Gospel (Mk. 16:15,16). Perhaps their very first reaction was, "But I don't know the languages!" For them it wasn't even a case of, "I was no good at languages at school", for they had had no schooling. It was written all over them "that they were unlearned and ignorant men" (Acts 4:13) when it came to that kind of thing. And even for the more educated preachers (e.g. Paul), the language barrier was still formidable. When converts were made, the reliance which they would need to have on each other for edification (in the absence of the written New Testament) meant that not understanding each other's language was a sizeable problem.
To overcome this, the gift of speaking in foreign languages ("tongues") and being able to understand them, was granted. The N.I.V margin renders
"tongues" as "languages". Obviously there is stark opposition between this view of "tongues" and that of many 'born again' Christians, who describe their ecstatic utterances of unintelligible sounds as ''tongues'. This confusion can be cleared up by showing that the Biblical definition of "tongues" is "foreign languages".
On the Jewish feast of Pentecost, soon after Christ's ascension to heaven, the apostles "were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues...The multitudes came together (again, a public display of the gifts!) and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue (the same Greek word translated 'languages') wherein we were born? Parthians and Medes...we do hear them speak in our tongues...And they were all amazed" (Acts 2:4-12). It is unlikely that the double emphasis on the people's amazement and their marvelling would have been necessary if they had heard only the mumbo-jumbo spoken by those who claim to have the gift today; that gives rise to petty sarcasm or indifference, rather than the amazement and conviction from understanding the words being spoken, which was experienced in Acts 2.
Apart from the clear parallel between "tongues" and "languages" in Acts 2:4-11, "tongues" is very evidently used to mean "languages" in other parts of the New Testament; the phrase "peoples, and nations, and tongues" is used five times in Revelation to speak of all the peoples of planet earth (Rev. 7:9; 10:11; 11:9; 13:7; 17:15). The Greek word for "tongues" occurs in the Greek version of the Old Testament (called the 'Septuagint') in the sense of languages (see Gen. 10:5; Deut. 28:4 9; Dan. 1:4).
1 Cor. 14 is a list of commands concerning the use of the gift of tongues; v. 21 quotes Is. 28:11 concerning how this gift would be used to witness against the Jews: "In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people...". Is. 28:11 primarily refers to Israel's invaders speaking to the Jews in languages ("tongues") they would not have known. The parallel between "tongues" and "lips" indicates that "tongues" were foreign languages. There are many other indications in 1 Cor. 14 that "tongues" refers to foreign languages. This chapter is
Paul's inspired criticism of the abuses of the gifts which were taking place in the early church, and as such it gives many insights into the nature of the gifts of tongues and prophecy. We will now attempt a brief commentary upon it. Verse 37 is a key verse:-
"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."
If anyone claims to be spiritually gifted, he must therefore accept that the preceding commands about the use of the gifts are inspired by God. Any who today disobey those commands are therefore openly admitting that they see fit to despise God's inspired words. Verses 11-17:-
"Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me.
Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.
Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret.
For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful.
What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.
Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest?
For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified."
To speak in a language which those present at the service do not understand is therefore pointless. The use of ' mumbo-j umbo' speaking is ruled out -for how can a truthful "Amen" be said at the end of a "prayer" composed of gibberish which cannot be understood? Remember that "Amen" means ''So be it', i.e. 'I totally agree with what has been said in this prayer'. Speaking in language which is not understood by your brethren does not edify them, Paul says.
I remember distributing tracts outside a Billy Graham crusade, appealing for people to get back to a more Bible-based approach to Christianity. An excited woman tried to persuade me that my Christadelphian doctrine was "devil-led" - by jabbering away in "tongues" for 10 minutes. In no way could I be "edified" by that; surely this is exactly what Paul is commanding not to do.
"I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all."
Because of his wide travels in the preaching of Christ, Paul needed the gift of languages ("tongues") more than most.
Verse 19:-"Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue."
This is quite plain. A brief sentence about Christ in English will do me more good than hours of preaching to me in a foreign language - or 'mumbo-jumbo'.
"Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe."
The use of tongues was therefore mainly to be used for outgoing preaching of the Gospel. Yet today most claims of 'tongues' possession occur among groups of 'believers' or (apparently) in their individual, personal experience, while alone. There is a chronic dearth of examples of such people being able to speak miraculously in foreign languages in order to spread the Gospel. In the early 1990s the door of opportunity opened to preach Christ in Eastern Europe, but the (so-called) 'evangelical' churches had to distribute their literature in English because of the language barriers! Surely the gift of tongues should have been used if it were possessed? And the great mass evangelist Reinhardt Seiber, whilst claiming phenomenal possession of the Spirit, still had to speak to the crowds in Kampala, Uganda, through a translator.
Verse 23:-"If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?"
This is exactly what has happened. Muslims and pagans alike have mocked the bizarre behaviour of those claiming the gift of tongues throughout West Africa. Even a level-headed Christian putting his head round the corner of a Pentecostal meeting would be tempted to think that the members were mad.
Verse 27:-"If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret."
Only two or three people were needed to speak in tongues during any service. It is unlikely that there would be more than three different languages spoken by any audience. A service would soon lose all coherence if each sentence of the speaker had to be translated more than twice. If the gift of tongues were possessed at a meeting in Central London, attended by English people, with some French and German tourists present, the speakers might begin:-
Pastor: Good evening.
First-tongue speaker: Bon soir (French)
Second-tongue speaker: Guten abend (German).
But naturally they must speak "by course", one after another. Confusion would result from them speaking simultaneously; yet, because of the fundamentally emotional nature of present 'speaking in tongues', the phenomena does occur from the mouths of many people simultaneously. I have observed that once one person starts, others are quickly influenced to do likewise.
The gift of tongues would often have been used in conjunction with that of prophecy, so that an inspired message from God could be spoken forth (by the prophecy gift) in a language foreign to the speaker (by the gift of tongues). An example of such use of the two gifts can be found in Acts 19:6. However, if at a meeting in London attended by English people and many French visitors, the speaker spoke in French, the English people present would "not be edified". Therefore the gift of interpreting tongues (or languages) would have to be present, so that everyone could understand - in our example, to translate from French to English. Likewise if a question were asked by one of the French speakers, the speaker would not be able to understand him unaided, even though he had the gift of speaking in French without personally knowing it. The gift of interpretation would therefore be present to help in this.
Without the presence of one with the gift of interpretation when it was needed, the tongue gift would not be used: "...let one interpret. But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church" (1 Cor. 14:27,28). The fact that many modern claimants of 'tongues' speak in 'language' which cannot be understood by anyone, and without an interpreter, is surely a case of flat disobedience to these commands.
Verses 32,33:-"And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints."
Possession of Holy Spirit gifts is not therefore to be associated with an experience which takes a person out of the realms of normal consciousness; the spirit is subject to the control of the user, rather than a force which takes them over so that they act involuntarily. It is often wrongly claimed that demons or 'evil spirits' possess the 'unsaved' (see Study 6.3), but that the Holy Spirit fills the believers. But the spirit power referred to in 1 Cor. 14:32 was subject to the possessor's control for specific ends; it was not an animating force of good in contrast to the force of evil which is in human nature. Besides, we have shown earlier that these powers of the Holy Spirit came on the apostles at certain times to perform specific things, rather than being present with them permanently.
The plea for possessors of the gifts to use them in a way befitting God's love of peace and hate of disorder (v. 33), seems to fall on deaf ears in the 'Pentecostal' churches of today.
"Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law."
In this context of using the spirit gifts, it is undeniably laid down that a woman should not use them during a church service. The wholesale disregard for this is to be expected if the present phenomena of speaking in 'mumbo-jumbo' is explicable in terms of emotional excitation passing from one person to another in an audience. Woman, children - indeed anyone present with a willing mind - can be affected by such stimulus, and therefore make the ecstatic utterances, which are passed off as 'tongues'.
The prominence of women in alleged 'tongue speaking' and 'prophecy' in modern churches just cannot be reconciled with the clear command of this verse. The ridiculous, desperate argument that Paul was a woman-hater is quashed a few verses later: "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 Cor. 14:37) - not Paul personally.
Any believer in an inspired Bible must therefore accept that these commands of 1 Cor. 14 must be taken seriously; to openly flout them can only indicate a lack of belief in the full inspiration of Scripture - or a self-declaration that one is not spiritually gifted, seeing that someone who lacks the gifts will deny that the commands of 1 Cor. 14 are the Lord's commands for us. The logic of this argument is telling, indeed devastating. In the light of it, how can you remain a member of such a church, or be willing to fellowship them?
As a footnote to this section, it is highly significant that those sects which claim to speak in tongues have been scientifically proven to have higher levels of depression compared to people from other backgrounds. Keith Meador, Professor of Psychiatry at Vanderbilt University, U.S.A., undertook a major study analyzing the relationship between depression and religious background. He found that "the rate of serious depression...among Pentecostal Christians was 5.4% compared to 1.7% for the entire survey group". The results of his work are written up in the journal, 'Hospital and Community Psychiatry', Dec., 1992.
An interesting article, reaching the same conclusion, appeared in the International Herald Tribune, Feb. 11, 1993; the title speaks for itself: "Pentecostals top charts when it comes to the blues". Why is this? Surely it must be related to the fact that the 'experience' of spirit-possession, which Pentecostals (and others) claim, is no more than a painful psychological con-trick.
The miraculous gifts of God's spirit will be used again by the believers in order to change this present world into God's Kingdom, after the return of Christ. The gifts are therefore called "the powers of the world (age) to come" (Heb. 6:4,5); and Joel 2:26-29 describes a great outpouring of the spirit gifts after the repentance of Israel. The very fact that these gifts will be given to the believers on Christ's return is proof enough that they are not possessed now - seeing that to any
Christian with eyes open to both Scripture and world events, the Lord's return must surely be soon (see Appendix 3).
There are clear Biblical prophecies that at some point in time between the first century, when the gifts were possessed, and the second coming, the gifts were to be withdrawn:-
"Whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be (the gift of) knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away" (1 Cor. 13:8-10). The gifts "are temporary" (G.N.B.).
The spirit gifts possessed in the first century were to be withdrawn "when that which is perfect is come". This cannot be the second coming of Christ, seeing that at that time the gifts will be given again. The Greek word translated "perfect"
strictly means 'that which is full or complete'; it does not necessarily mean something sinless.
This complete thing would replace the partial knowledge which the early Christians had as a result of the gift of prophecy. Remember that prophecy was the gift of speaking forth the inspired words of God; it is the written record of such words which makes up the Bible.
In the first century, the average believer would only have known a fraction of the New Testament as we know it. He would have heard some words of prophecy from the elders of his church about various practical issues; he would have known the outline of the life of Jesus, and may well have heard one or two of Paul's letters read out. But once the written record of the words of prophecy was completed and circulated, there was no need for the gift of prophecy to still be possessed. That which was complete, and which thereby replaced the ministry of the spirit gifts, was therefore the completed New Testament:-
"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect (complete)" (2 Tim. 3:16,17).
That which makes perfect, or complete, is "all scripture"; so once "all scripture" was inspired and written, "that which was complete" had come, and the miraculous gifts were withdrawn.
Ephesians 4:8-14 now slots into place to nicely complete the jigsaw puzzle:-
"When he (Jesus) ascended up on high (to heaven), he...gave (spirit) gifts unto men...for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in (unto) the unity of the faith (i.e. the one faith), and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man...That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine."
The gifts of the first century were to be given until the perfect, or mature, man was reached, and 2 Tim. 3:16,17 says that "the man of God (is) perfect" through accepting the guidance of "all scripture". Col. 1:28 also teaches that
'perfection' comes from response to God's Word. Once all Scripture is possessed, there is no longer any real excuse for being puzzled by the multitude of doctrines offered by various churches. There is only one Bible, and as "thy Word is truth" (Jn. 17:17), through study of its pages we can find the "unity of the faith", the one faith which Eph. 4:13 speaks of. True Christians have therefore reached the possession of that one faith; in that sense they are complete ("perfect") as a result of "that which is perfect" or complete - the written, completed Word of God.
In passing, note how Eph. 4:14 likens being under the ministry of the miraculous gifts, to spiritual childhood; and, in the context of prophesying, how the miraculous gifts were to be taken away. 1 Cor. 13:11 says the same. Making such a fuss about possessing the spirit gifts is therefore not a sign of spiritual maturity. The progress each reader of these words should now make is towards a deeper appreciation of the written Word of God, to rejoice in the completeness of God's basic revelation of Himself to us through it, and to respond to it in humble obedience.
Finally, a number of other points have to be made concerning the repeated claims of those who think they now possess the miraculous gifts:- Present "speaking in tongues" tends to repeat the same short syllables over and over again, e.g. "Lala, lala, lala, shama, shama. Jesus, Jesus...". This is not in the syntax associated with any language; when one hears someone speak in a foreign tongue, it is usually possible to discern that they are communicating something by the pattern of words they use, although we may not understand those words. Yet modern tongue-speaking does not feature this, underlining the fact that it is not providing edification, which was the purpose of the first century gifts.
- Some Pentecostals claim that speaking in tongues is a sign of being "saved" and will therefore accompany every true conversion. This claim runs into serious difficulty with the description of the early churches as a body, in which those possessing different gifts were like the different parts. Not everyone was an arm or leg, and so likewise not everyone possessed any one gift, e.g. tongues. 1 Cor. 12:17, 27-30 makes this clear:-
"If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?...Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?"
The same point was made earlier in that chapter:-
"For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. For as the body is one,and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body; so also is Christ" (1 Cor. 12:8-12).
Another problem for the Pentecostal argument is that Philip converted many people in Samaria - i.e. they were baptized in water after understanding the Gospel, but they did not receive the Spirit gifts; because after this, Peter and John came to them:
"Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit...then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit...Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Spirit was given" (Acts 8:4-18). It is possible that the passing on of the Spirit gifts was only by this laying on of hands, which is not frequently practiced by modern claimants.
Other Pentecostals say that tongue-speaking is not a proof of having been saved. This highlights the fact that there are major doctrinal differences between those claiming to possess the gifts. Thus some 'charismatics' believe that God's Kingdom will be on earth, while others say it is in heaven. Catholic 'charismatics' claim that the Holy Spirit tells them to worship Mary and the Pope, whilst some Pentecostal 'charismatics' say that their possession of the Holy Spirit orders them to denounce the Pope as antichrist, and to condemn Catholic doctrine. Yet Jesus stated beyond doubt that those possessing the Comforter, "which is the Holy Spirit", would be guided "into all truth...in that day ye shall (need to) ask me nothing...the Comforter...shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you" (Jn. 16:13,23;4:26).
There should not be any split in fundamental doctrine amongst those who possess the Comforter -the fact that there is, indicates that those claiming its possession just cannot be taken seriously. The marked inability of some of these claimants to Biblically justify their beliefs indicates that they have not been guided into all truth and total knowledge by the Comforter.
- The great importance attached by some to speaking in tongues is mismatched with the Biblical record. The list of Spirit gifts in Eph. 4:11 does not even mention it, and it occurs at the bottom of a similar list in 1 Cor. 12:28-30. Indeed, there are only three occasions recorded in the New
Testament where the gift was used (Acts 2:4;
The claims of tongue-speaking and miracles being achieved by modern charismatic Christians must be weighed against the considerable information which we have presented in this study concerning the work of God's Spirit. The fundamental point to make is that whatever such people claim to achieve, it cannot be as a result of their possession of the Holy Spirit. Whoever argues that they do possess the gifts, has a hefty homework to do in answering the Biblical arguments which we have presented.
However, it is reasonable to expect some explanation of why the phenomena of partial healings and 'tongues' (in the sense of 'mumbo-jumbo' speaking) occur.
It has been realized that human beings only use a fraction of their brain-power - as low as 1%, according to some estimates. It is also recognized that the mind can have an almost 'physical' control over the body; thus through psyching themselves to believe that fire cannot burn, Hindus have walked on fire barefoot without being burnt. In times of stimulus, it is possible for us to use a far greater percentage of our brain-power than usual, and therefore to have the capacity to achieve physical effects with, and upon, our body which are outside of normal experience. Thus, in the excitement of battle, a soldier may be quite unaware that his hand has been blown off until hours afterwards.
In conditions of fervent religious belief and the stimulation of certain music, with the influence of a charismatic leader, it is quite possible that things outside the realm of normal human experience will occur. The 'miracles' claimed by
'Christians' of today are of the same order of exceptionality as the paranormal experiences of other religions; thus voodoo worshippers experience the same phenomena of 'mumbo-jumbo' speaking, and Muslims can also testify to 'miracles' of a similar order to those claimed by modern Christianity. Yet the whole point of the Spirit gifts being possessed in the first century was to show the obvious supremacy of true Christianity over all other religions; the fact that the 'miracles' of present-day Christianity are of a similar order to those of other religions, shows that the Holy Spirit gifts of the first century are not now possessed.
Much significant information in this area is presented in William Campbell's 'Pentecostalism' (The Churches of Christ, 1967) . He shows that many pagan religions have this same feature of 'tongue' speaking. Thus in Kawaii, the priests of the god Oro supposedly reveal his will with indistinct sounds which are interpreted by other priests. Exactly the same occurs in Pentecostal meetings.
The continuing triumph of Islam over Christianity in much of Africa would surely not be seen if popular 'Christianity' were doing real miracles of the scale and convicting power of those in the first century. And those who truly possess the "Comforter" of the Holy Spirit gifts will do even "greater works" than those Jesus did (Jn. 14:12,16). The excuse that Christians could do such miracles if they had more faith, meets big problems here. Either they possess the miraculous gifts of the Comforter, or they do not, and if they claim that they do - "greater works than these shall ye do" (Jn. 14:12) - not 'you might do'!
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