WHAT IS SPEAKING IN TONGUES?
Having been filled with the Holy Ghost, with the evidence of speaking in tongues at four-years old, doesn’t make a girl very popular in school. As a matter of fact, unless that girl knows where those tongue things come from- she won’t use them. She won’t speak in them.
Who’s that kid? Me! I can remember it like it was yesterday. It was 1981 and I was in Sunday school, wearing my best white dress. A little lacy white dress, that we had gotten second hand. I can remember this dress especially well- because it was the one I wore to church- all the time, any old Sunday.
The Sunday I received Christ wasn’t any old Sunday however. When the youth teacher asked us to “accept Christ” and join in the sinners prayer, I did! And I was then gifted with the evidence of speaking in tongues! Though I was only 4, I can still remember the Spirit falling, resulting in my personal evidence of speaking in tongues.
Speaking in tongues is a very common practice among Charismatic/Pentecostals today. It hasn’t always been this way. As a matter of fact back in 1981 while others were readily speaking in tongues, I didn’t know what they were used for. Speaking in tongues was made available, but not expanded upon. After all what are you going to teach a 4 year-old to do?
It took me 26 years to understand why speaking in tongues was necessary.
“Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy. For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue, speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the Spirit He speaketh mysteries” (1 Cor. 14:1, 2).
Charismatics aren’t the first followers and believers of speaking in other tongues. The first time that we see the gifting of tongues was back on the day of Pentecost:
“And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:1-4)
THE FIRST CHURCH
As described by scripture, the Holy Spirit “sat” on the believers of the Early Church, and in response; they were filled with The Holy Ghost and began to speak in other tongues. It is in my belief that over the years, through the faulty leadership of legalistic Christ-deprecating men- the leaders of the Church fell out of ‘Love’ with its people; with its Christ and with its God. The Church leaders veered far from what the Holy Spirit had originally intended.
The First Church was so full of ‘Love’ (1 John 4:8 “God is love” ) that lying could not survive in its presence.
“But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things.” (Acts 5:3-5)
Once Ananias lied he dropped down dead. He and his wife also. They lied in the presence of the Holy Spirit and their lives were consumed. If God is all love how can this be?
Imagine with me if you would the ‘rotten apple’ analogy. What do they always say? If you put a rotten apple in a barrel, it won’t be long until all the apples have gone bad.
Let’s reverse this for a minute in the case of The Holy Spirit. There was so much Love in the Early Church that the darkened hearts of Ananias and Sapphira could not survive in its presence! It would be like a rotten apple stuck at the bottom of tens of thousands of perfectly pristine apples! The rotten apple, would become void and squished under the immense pressure of all of God’s goodness!
The First Church was so engulfed in God’s Love- that the lie, (in addition to the liars) were killed telling the first lie that was spoken in the Spirits presence! This wasn’t just “barrel-full” of love- this was “Agape” Love! Perfect unblemished fruit stays whole, no matter how much of it is gathered up!
What happened to this Love? To this compassion of the Early Church?
Through the years it became fruitless. Men began acting like men again- and chose to live in ways that were de-edifying to the church. The men started seeking notoriety and fame. They started wanting to take credit for the power of The Holy Ghost- instead of allowing God to use them. In turn refusing to give God all of the Glory. It is my belief that tongues started to die out- as it is prophesied by Paul,
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.” (1 Cor 13:1-10 NKJV)
The Apostle Paul directs us that without ‘Love’, it all amounts to nothing. That speaking in tongues in specific will cease! There has seemed to be a great amount of time in history that tongues ceased from the traditionally organized church. While speaking in tongues never completely died away, organized religion wouldn’t partake in them. Until one great and brave man decided it would be fitting to begin to love, again.
His name was William J. Seymour. He was an African American man who was born a child of freed slaves. In 1905 William became a Bible student and began studying the ‘Holiness Movement’, including the thoughts of speaking in tongues as confirmation of being gifted by The Holy Spirit. He desired the ability to speak in tongues according to 1 Cor 12:31 “But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.”
I can not begin to imagine the love that William J. Seymour must have had for his flock, and for His Lord. The love that he must have felt in order to desire so strongly to be filled with the Holy Spirit and with the evidence of speaking in other tongues. How much love must it have taken him, in order to continue to preach on being filled with the Spirit and speaking in tongues weekly with no results!
It is said he preached for 5 weeks+ on the evidence of speaking in tongues as the confirming gift of being filled with the Holy Ghost, without he himself being able to do it!
It was after these multiple weeks of preaching and prayer, that into a 10 day fast on April 9, 1906, Edward S. Lee spoke in tongues for the first time.
A few days later William himself, was given the gift. This period in American history April 9, 1906-1915 became known as “The start of Pentecostalism in the 20th Century.” You would think that Pentecostalism would have started in a tent, or in a field away from society. It didn’t however, it all began in a little house on a little street in Los Angeles, California. After the Spirit fell, the little house became so packed that the meetings had to be moved outside, but once outside the house the porch became so packed that it eventually collapsed!
“Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not…” 1 Cor 14:22
People came from miles around to watch God be manifested. In an instant hungry believers would approach and listen to the Message being filled with The Holy Ghost. They would speak in tongues themselves and fall to the ground, they would succumb to the presence of the Holy Ghost and never be the same again. Eventually, this little church house had to be moved.
On April 14, 1906 only 5 days after the initial outpouring of the Spirit began, a new location was secured. At the price of 8$ a month, 312 Azusa Street- a run down old building had been acquired and named “The Apostolic Faith Mission”.
This church on Azusa Street would become regarded as the birthplace of the greatest revival of the church in the 20th century. It has become regarded as the birthplace of modern day ‘Pentecostalism’. Today there are over 500 million Pentecostal/Charismatic believers continually growing to this day.
William J. Seymour’s desire to see the Holy Spirit manifest to himself, as in the days of the first church, has brought us back to a spiritual enlightenment an enlightenment that was intended for us to walk in all along. (Not just in tongues, but in healing as well)
WALKING IN HIS GIFTS
I chose to write my Bible College term paper on The Azusa Street Revival, because it spoke to me. Being a child who so easily stepped into speaking in tongues, I have taken for granted the hard work and effort it must have taken for someone to believe against the ‘norm’. I never thought someone had to read the Word, and act on what God said. Until this class, I had always believed speaking in tongues and biblical evidence of the Spirit had always been here.
When we walk in His gifts, others become drawn to us. People were drawn to Azusa Street to ‘see’ what the Lord was doing there. They wanted to ‘see’ God and His works, whether black or white, rich or poor; the Holy Spirit met them, embraced them, and changed them forever!
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” Gal 3:28
Where do those ‘tongue’ things come from? They come from The Holy Ghost! They are an outward manifestation of the Holy Ghost drawing other men unto His Spirit! They are the wonderful gift that He gives us to edify us! In 1906, on Azusa Street tongues were made readily available to us through the Love of The Holy Spirit, and now we can begin to understand what He is up to!
“But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.” 1 John 2:20
“But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.” 1 John 2:27
Footnote: Smith Wiggelsworth beautifully elaborates his personal view on speaking in tongues- in his profound work Ever-Increasing Faith (circa 1929):
“… I want you to see that he that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself or builds himself up. We must be edified before we can edify the church. I cannot estimate what I, personally, owe to the Holy Ghost method of spiritual edification. I am here before you as one of the biggest conundrums in the world. There never was a weaker man on the platform. Language? None. Inability — full of it. All natural things in my life point exactly opposite to my being able to stand on the platform and preach the gospel. The secret is that the Holy Ghost came and brought this wonderful edification of the Spirit.”
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