The Work of the Holy Spirit, by Witness Lee


What I have spoken in these messages is the compilation of many good teachings of the past, including those of the Brethren, the mystics such as Madame Guyon and Father Fenelon, and the inner life teachers such as Mr. Stockmayer, F. B. Meyer, Andrew Murray, and Mrs. Penn-Lewis. We have also received from others’ experiences and even from the Pentecostal movement, and we have had our own experiences. I have studied the subject of the work of the Holy Spirit for more than thirty years, and I have the full assurance that our attitude is the moderate and right one.

In Christianity there are two groups of people with regard to the work of the Holy Spirit. One is the fundamental people with the Brethren teaching. They say that all the supernatural gifts and miraculous things are over and that there is no more divine healing or speaking in tongues. After studying this for thirty years, we conclude that we cannot go along with this teaching. It is too extreme. We have studied the Word carefully for this purpose, and we cannot find even a hint to support this teaching. No one can point out a verse to prove it. Rather, we found out that among the Brethren there was much divine healing. They themselves received such experiences, but they used different terms to describe it. They said it is not the healing of gifts but the healing of grace. This is simply a matter of terminology. If we call a man a dog, a cat, or a fish, he is still a man. In the same way, whether the Brethren call what they experienced divine healing or something else, it is still some kind of divine healing.

On the other hand, there is the Pentecostal movement, especially the movement for the speaking in tongues. I am bothered about this movement. It also is too extreme. We do not agree that speaking in tongues is over. Who can tell us it is over? It is still here. However, people in the tongues movement insist that everyone has to speak in tongues. I recently read in a magazine that came out of that movement that those people realize that tongues is only one gift out of many. In 1 Corinthians 12:28, the apostle Paul said, “And God has placed some in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then works of power, then gifts of healing, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues.” In this list, tongues is the last item.

Verses 29-30 continue, “Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all have works of power? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret tongues?” However, although certain persons have realized that there is such a word in the Scriptures, they still insist that everyone must speak in tongues. They have found a way to reconcile their teaching with the Scriptures. They say that in the church gatherings, not all the believers have the anointing to speak in tongues. Only a few have the anointing. That is why Paul indicated that not all speak in tongues. However, they say that every believer in his or her private devotional time must have the anointing to speak in tongues.

How can it be that in a private time everyone must have the anointing to speak in tongues, but in the gathering of the church it is possible for only a few to have the anointing to speak in tongues? This is not logical. Verse 29 asks, “Are all apostles?” We cannot say that some are apostles only when the church comes together, but outside of the church gatherings they are not apostles. If some are apostles in the meetings, they are also apostles outside the meetings. In their private devotional hour they are apostles, and in the hour of meeting they are still apostles. In the same way, if one has the anointing, the gift, to speak in tongues in the private hour, to be sure he will have it in the meetings. Likewise, if he has it in the meetings, he will have it in the private hour. It is not logical to say that everyone must speak in tongues in their private devotional hour, but only a few have the anointing to speak in tongues in the meeting. Some say this simply to insist that everyone must speak in tongues. This is too extreme. My intention is not to oppose speaking in tongues. It is simply to help you not to be extreme.

To say that we must speak in tongues creates trouble and causes many to be disappointed because they cannot obtain this gift. It also gives rise to many human imitations. The magazine I read insists that everyone must speak in tongues, but it admits that everyone who speaks in tongues doubts that what they speak is genuine and real. The reason people who speak in tongues doubt their experience is that the tongues movement influences people to imitate tongues by using a different kind of voice.

After people are influenced to speak in this way, they doubt that what they have done is real. I had the same experience in 1933, but a few years later I dropped it. After speaking in tongues in a miraculous and supernatural way on the day of Pentecost, did the disciples doubt their speaking? They did not doubt it, because what they had was the real item. The reason a person doubts his speaking is that it seems even to him that it is not miraculous or supernatural. He simply opens his mouth and uses his tongue to speak something. Then he doubts whether it comes from the Holy Spirit.

Although many people in that movement say that they speak in tongues, the tongue they speak in is something doubtful even to themselves. Every person who speaks in tongues has this experience. I do not oppose anyone, but I must be faithful to the Lord and to His children. I wish to help you to be released. Do not be frightened away from seeking the real experience of the power of the Holy Spirit, but do not be troubled to think that you must speak in tongues. There is no such need.

Not all speak in tongues, just as not all are apostles or prophets and not all have the gift of healing. We must leave this matter open to the Lord in a general way. We should not oppose it or insist on it and push it. If the Lord gives us this gift, we receive it with thanks, but we do not insist on it. Then we will be open and general, and we will not go to this extreme or the other extreme. We do not say that all miraculous and supernatural things are over, and neither do we say that everyone must speak in tongues, forcing and influencing people to imitate and do something false.

In 1 Corinthians 14:39 Paul says, “Do not forbid the speaking in tongues.” Therefore, in chapters twelve and fourteen he indicates both that not all speak in tongues and that we should not forbid speaking in tongues. We must be general and open in a proper way. I say once again, forget about the manifestation. Leave this matter to the Lord. Perhaps He will give us to speak in tongues. If so, we should be thankful and receive it, but if He would give us other aspects of the manifestation of the Spirit, we receive those. We leave this to Him. The most important thing is that we experience life within and power without.


Some may say that even if speaking in tongues is not real, it helps people to seek the Lord. Still, it is not necessary. I have seen a church of one thousand people experience the Lord in a good way, even better than those in the tongues movement, but we never insisted that they speak in tongues. Perhaps only one or two out of one hundred had the real experience from the Lord of speaking in tongues. I also have had good experiences of the Lord, especially in those years in China, but I did not speak in tongues at that time.

I reasoned in this way with a brother who was very much for speaking in tongues. In his district many people were saved, but in another district many more people were saved who did not speak in tongues, and they became more spiritual than the ones who did. They even opposed speaking in tongues, but they were more prevailing than the others. This proves that the power is not in the speaking in tongues. Some had speaking in tongues but not the power, while others did not have the speaking in tongues, but they had power. In this case, the speaking in tongues that the first group had is questionable.

As a rule, it is doubtful that speaking in tongues is a proof that one has power. If someone speaks in tongues but does not have power, he should doubt his tongues. What kind of speaking in tongues is this? If one has the genuine speaking in tongues, it must bring him power. There is no need to oppose anything, but we must help others. Do not be bothered by the wrong teaching to be forced to imitate something. This is too extreme. Let us be moderate, general, and open.

We need the real experience of the Holy Spirit within as our life and without as our power. We must seek this with a sincere heart and pray more that we will experience the Holy Spirit more in the proper way.

(The Work of the Holy Spirit, Chapter 6, by Witness Lee)