THE PROBLEM OF SPEAKING IN TONGUES
In the early 1900s Pentecostalism came to the United States and spread to the West Coast where a conference was held on Azusa Street in Los Angeles. Then two schools of doctrine came into being. One was mild, saying that if you do not speak in tongues, you do not have the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The stronger school, however, said that without this baptism with the speaking in tongues you could not be regenerated. These Pentecostals became divided. A. B. Simpson was among the leaders there. Because he could not agree with these teachings, he departed and formed the Christian and Missionary Alliance. Many among the remainder of the milder ones went on to form the Assembly of God.
From that time onward in the United States, many Pentecostals believe that if you do not speak in tongues, you have not received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. To some this also means that you have not been regenerated. However, I have the full assurance that I was regenerated in 1925, even though I had not spoken in tongues. Likewise, many saints who never spoke in tongues have also been regenerated. D. L. Moody, C. H. Spurgeon, and John Nelson Darby never spoke in tongues. Martin Luther did not speak in tongues either. All these great men, although they did not speak in tongues, were regenerated. Hudson Taylor, the founder of China Inland Mission, also did not speak in tongues, yet you cannot say that he was not regenerated. Many great speakers of the Keswick conventions never spoke in tongues, yet we could not say that they were not regenerated. There is no verse in the Bible which says that if I have not been baptized in the Spirit and have never spoken in tongues, I am not regenerated.
In 1936, we thought there might be something in the Pentecostal movement of the Lord and felt we should not be narrow but should remain open to them. We went to their meetings and spent some time to watch them. The more I observed them, the more I doubted whether they spoke in genuine tongues.
The Greek word for tongue in Acts 2:4 is glossa, whereas the Greek word for dialect, dialektos, is used in verses 6 and 8. In Acts chapter two these two words are interchangeably used. This indicates that the tongue spoken must be a dialect, an understandable language, not merely a voice or sound uttered by the tongue. However, as I observed those who spoke in tongues, they all spoke in sounds which could not be a dialect. A dialect cannot consist of as few sounds as were uttered by these tongue-speakers. When I questioned an American leader of this movement, using an Interlinear Greek Bible, he could not give me an adequate answer. This disappointed me very much. He was a top leader in the Pentecostal movement in China and knew Greek, but he could not explain how this kind of speaking could be a dialect.
In a Pentecostal meeting one may speak in tongues using only four syllables in his utterance. Another may interpret for him saying, "My people, time is short. I come quickly. Watch and pray. Be zealous, love one another, and preach the gospel." On the next day they all will come together, and the same one will speak in tongues again, using the identical utterance from the previous night. However, on this night, another may interpret for him, saying, "My people, the church here needs a big hall. All you who have money should donate it to build the hall. The Lord will bless you." On the third day the brother may speak in tongues again in the same way, and another will interpret in yet a third different way. A linguist could tell you that this simple utterance of four syllables was the same on each of the three nights. Yet there were three very different interpretations for it. This indicates that this kind of speaking in tongues is not genuine, but altogether a human manufactured utterance.
There is no real dialect consisting of only four or five syllables. Such a speaking as practiced in Pentecostal meetings is only a sound made with the tongue. When the Japanese speak in tongues in this way, they do it with a Japanese accent. When the Chinese speak in tongues in this way, they do so with a Chinese accent. Likewise, the Mexicans speak in tongues with a Mexican accent. I am not against the genuine speaking in tongues as mentioned in the Bible. There is the speaking in tongues in the Bible, but it is not as the tongue-speaking practiced today. The tongues in the Bible are surely a dialect, which is altogether understandable and meaningful. In this matter we should come back to the pure Word because there is such an influence today that disturbs God’s seeking people.
TAKING THE BAPTISM IN THE HOLY SPIRIT
BY LIVING FAITH
We must take the baptism in the Holy Spirit by living faith. If we are right with the Body of Christ, we are in a position to take the baptism in the Holy Spirit. We should realize that it has already been accomplished and now exists upon the Body of Christ. As members of the Body of Christ maintaining a right relationship with the Body, we are entitled to claim it through the exercise of living faith. We must take it just as we took the value of the Lord’s redeeming death. We did not take that according to our feeling or any kind of so-called manifestation. We received the Lord’s redemption simply by believing, and the Lord honored it. When we believe in the accomplished fact of the Lord’s death for our sins, the Holy Spirit quietly honors our faith; forgiveness of sins and divine life are imparted to us, and we have peace and joy within. We just believe what the Lord has accomplished according to what we are told in the Will (the New Testament). The Will also tells us that the baptism in the Holy Spirit is accomplished upon the Body of Christ and waiting to be taken. We who are rightly related with the Body of Christ should simply take it by living faith. If we mean business with the Lord, He will honor our faith, and we will experience it.
(The Divine Economy, Chapter 12, by Witness Lee)