The Work of the Holy Spirit, by Witness Lee


Many Pentecostals, although they insist that everyone must speak in tongues and that they themselves speak in tongues, doubt in their own heart whether they actually speak in tongues. They simply insist in this way because they are on the Pentecostal line. This is the same as people under certain kinds of government. They doubt that their government is right, but they insist that it is right simply because they are under it. If we question some who speak in tongues as to whether it is genuine, we will find that they doubt it. They do not have the assurance that what they speak is real. Rather, there are many imitations and much human manufacturing. We tried all these things. I myself spoke in tongues, and I helped others to do it. I have seen real speaking in tongues, but not many tongues today are real.

Today the tongues movement has a wrong emphasis, and it causes much damage. Therefore, we must spend time to dig out these matters to clarify the situation, to help the believers to be clear about this so that we may seek and gain the proper experience.

I have studied these matters both in the Far East and in the United States. Because the Pentecostal believers insist that everyone must speak in tongues, they often force people to do it. They preach this matter, they push it, and they even teach people how to exercise their mouth to change their tone to speak in unknown tongues. There is a strong influence among them that forces everyone to do it.

The issue of this is that a number of them have been disappointed because they cannot do it. Even after trying to, they still cannot receive this ability. Others have been forced to imitate speaking in tongues. Some may be in the spirit but not have speaking in tongues, so because they have the background of the Pentecostal teaching, they speak in tongues by human imitation. I would like to speak freely with many Pentecostal believers. I wish to touch their conscience in a calm way, asking, “Can you tell me in truth, with a good conscience, that your speaking in tongues is the real and genuine tongues?” When I asked some in this way, they replied, “We cannot say whether or not it is genuine, but we feel it is helpful.”

I have seen many human imitations and manufacturings. In this country, some people teach others how to speak in tongues by exercising their mouth to change their tone of voice. While one such person was helping two Chinese brothers in this way, his wife stood by and encouraged them, saying, “Do not speak in Chinese and do not speak in English. Just speak something else.” This means that they were simply to change their tone of voice. As long as their speaking did not have the Chinese tone or the English tone, whatever came out would be speaking in tongues. One of the Chinese brothers eventually imitated a tone in a false way, and the husband and wife rejoiced. They wanted the brother to testify of his experience in the next meeting.

Some people have told me that when the Spirit works upon us, we must cooperate with Him by exercising our mouth. However, this is simply to cooperate by imitating. If the Holy Spirit does something miraculous with us, there is no need to exercise our mouth in this way. We can compare this to electricity. When electricity comes into an appliance, there is no need for the various parts of the appliance to “exercise to cooperate” in this way. To teach people to speak in tongues is not genuine. In 1960 some people came to me in this way. They laid hands on me and told me to say, “Praise Jesus” quickly over and over. This was supposed to be speaking in tongues.

At one point, I myself helped people to speak in tongues, but eventually I asked myself, “What is this? Before I had this kind of experience, I already loved the Lord and I experienced Him very much. Why do I have to do this?” After that time, I dropped this practice. In the many years since then, I have been helped by the Lord to know Him, to grow in Him, and to follow Him more and more deeply.


All the aspects of the manifestation of the Holy Spirit as power are for the purpose of life. The right, genuine speaking of tongues is to help people to grow in life. Many Pentecostals, however, do not know much of life. They speak in tongues for the purpose of speaking in tongues; they do not speak in tongues for life. On the day of Pentecost, the speaking in tongues was for the preaching of the gospel, and three thousand people were saved, but today many people speak in tongues for a display and a kind of entertainment. All the aspects of the Holy Spirit as power to us are for life. They are not life, but they are for life. Speaking in tongues in the right way is for the growth and edification in life. Even healing is for the growth in life. Today, however, many people misuse these matters because they know nothing about life.

I beg you to be soberminded and to have a clear and logical understanding of the Word. Is it logical to understand that speaking in tongues is a necessary requirement for the evidence, or manifestation, of the Holy Spirit? No, it is not logical. The logical way is to consider it as only one item of many aspects. We must be clear. I would ask you to read all the above passages again carefully and learn to study the Word carefully, clearly, and rightly. Do not be careless in studying and understanding the Word. Do not listen to the wrong teachings, such as how all twelve believers in Ephesus spoke in tongues. If we read portions of the Word such as Acts 19 in a careful way, we will find something different from these wrong teachings.

(The Work of the Holy Spirit, Chapter 4, by Witness Lee)