The Spirit and the Body, by Witness Lee

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In verse 30 Paul says, "Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?" Paul’s question about speaking in tongues is a problem to those in the Pentecostal movement or charismatic movement. In 1936 I first became involved with tongues speaking. I took the lead to speak in tongues and I taught about two hundred others to speak in tongues. At that time I was endeavoring to have everyone speak in tongues. Those who could not do so were encouraged to imitate tongues speaking. When Brother Nee heard the news about this, he sent me a cable containing one line: "Do all speak with tongues?"

The Pentecostal people say that there are two kinds of speaking in tongues. The first may be called the initial speaking which they say everyone must experience. According to them, the second is the function of speaking in tongues in a meeting, which only some experience. What a ridiculous interpretation! How could someone speak in tongues initially and not speak in tongues thereafter? However, the Pentecostalists must interpret the Bible this way in order to avoid being caught by Paul’s question in verse 30 regarding all speaking in tongues. I am sorry that so many in today’s Pentecostal movement and charismatic movement do not pay careful attention to Paul’s words.

When we were in China, we attempted three times to bring the Pentecostal things into the Lord’s recovery. Each time we did so we suffered a loss. The debit far outweighed the credit. In 1943 we were suffering, and the church was low. I had been imprisoned for a month, and after I came out of prison I contracted tuberculosis. Because the church was depressed, some decided to bring in the Pentecostal things in order to stir up the church. One of the sisters became bold and prevailing in the matter of speaking in tongues, and she caused the meetings to be focused on herself. At first the elders thought that this was good. However, they later sensed that things were not normal and they began to pray. One day a young sister among us died. The sister who was prevailing in speaking in tongues prophesied that the deceased sister would be resurrected the next day at twelve o’clock noon. In her prophecy she told that sister’s husband to make no arrangements for the funeral. The news of that prophecy stirred the whole church, and many gathered together to witness the resurrection. Before noon the sister who had uttered the prophecy and two helpers knelt down and prayed loudly and boldly. They seemed to be quite living. Twelve o’clock came. Nothing happened. We waited until three o’clock in the afternoon. Still nothing happened. Finally, the oldest elder stood up and said, "Brothers and sisters, we should not listen to any more nonsense. Let us make the arrangements to bury our sister." That was the end of the Pentecostal movement among us. Although no conference of the workers was held regarding it and no decision was made, spontaneously everyone dropped it. After that, the entire church came back to the regular church meetings.

Let me now tell you something I experienced on the West Coast in 1963. I was invited to speak to a certain group in San Diego, and I stayed in the home of the leader for several days. At least four others were with me, all staying in the same home. In one of the meetings of this group a certain lady spoke in tongues. According to my impression, that was not a genuine tongue. After this lady spoke in tongues, a young man gave forth what purported to be the interpretation. However, I could tell that his interpretation was not genuine, for it was three times longer than the so-called message in tongues. At home after the meeting I said to our host, "Brother, do you believe that the interpretation given in the meeting was genuine?" He admitted that it was not. I said, "Brother, why do we need to practice such things? We have a wonderful Christ, and we do not have enough time to minister the riches of Christ to people. Why should we waste our time with nonsensical and false things?" Realizing what my attitude was, he became somewhat afraid of me. A few nights later, after I had gone to bed, he and his wife began to work on one of our brothers. The host laid hands on the brother, and the wife told him to open his mouth and say something, but not to speak either English or Chinese. Realizing that he had to speak something or else they would not let him go, he uttered a few sounds of Indonesian that he had learned from his wife. The host and his wife were elated, rejoicing that the brother had spoken in tongues. When I awoke in the morning, I heard what had taken place the night before. At the breakfast table I said to the host, "Brother, do you realize that you were fooled last night? Your wife told the brother to speak neither English nor Chinese. This forced him to speak nonsense. You were happy, thinking that he had spoken in tongues." They could not deny the situation.

(The Spirit and the Body, Chapter 16, by Witness Lee)