I apologize for the sparse blog posts – nerve issues are a recent challenge, and while grasping objects is amusing, typing is less so. There was a time when I believed that if I had enough faith, then I would be healed of my ailments. I was not only taught that physical healing was guaranteed in the atonement, I was also taught that because Jesus healed and because the apostles had the gift of healing, that Christians today could heal too. Sadly, my beliefs were a mix of faith healing, positive confession, and the continuation of the sign gifts. In this article, I will specifically address the healing and speaking in tongues aspects of these sign gifts.
In my Pentecostal and charismatic circles, we didn’t examine how, when, where, why, or to whom the sign gifts occurred; our conversations were based on experience and not on theology. That no one knew what the messages behind the tongues were (or what they even meant), or that no one was healed during the healing practices was not a concern – the experiences alone convinced us that something divine had occurred. The goal was not to glorify God, to proclaim the Gospel, or to grow in holiness – the goal was to have a spiritual experience.
I was unaware of the cessationist viewpoint; I believed that you were either “walking in the power of the Spirit” or you weren’t. The idea that the sign gifts had ceased never entered my mind. Therefore, the purpose of this article is to encourage my Pentecostal and charismatic continuationist sisters to examine, through a series of questions, why they believe what they believe about healing and speaking in tongues.
To Be Clear …
It is not my intention to attempt to end the debate between cessationism and continuationism, nor is it my intention to create division – whether or not the sign gifts operate today is surely not a salvational issue. If you have studied the Scriptures and you are fully convinced (Romans 14:5) that the gifts are still in operation today, then great. However, if you are not sure why you believe what you believe, then examine the Scriptures (Acts 17:11), and make sure that your beliefs are founded on the Word of God alone. The Bible is authoritative over feelings, experiences, and intentions; therefore, “I just feel that…”, “This happened to me in church…” or “God knows my heart…” are not qualifiers for objective truth.
There is a misperception in general that cessationists believe that God no longer performs miracles. However, the question is not whether God is sovereign – God can do anything through whomever, wherever, and whenever He chooses. I believe that God still heals people today; however, Christians do not determine His choosing to heal. We do not control or direct God’s hand. Additionally, the concern is not whether experiences, such as the gift of speaking in tongues exists; rather, the concern is whether what occurs today is biblical. Cessationists do not question whether God can grant the gift of signs; the question is: is He granting it now? The hand of God is not held up for scrutiny, experiences are; there is a lot of spiritual activity in today’s churches, all of which must be tested against Scripture (1 John 4:1).
Following are questions to help you examine your beliefs; these questions address the sign gifts as well as two beliefs concerning salvation – the first is the belief that physical healing is guaranteed in the atonement, and the second is the belief that speaking in tongues is evidence of salvation.
Questions to Consider Regarding Speaking in Tongues
1. If the unintelligible gift of speaking in tongues is from the Holy Spirit, then why do people from other religions speak in unintelligible tongues too? Egyptian priests in the 11th century B.C. spoke in tongues, as do present-day Muslims, Buddhists, and many New Age and occult practitioners.
2. If speaking in tongues is evidence of salvation, then why did the modern tongues movement start only around 1900? Shouldn’t the speaking in tongues have been a continuous practice since Pentecost?
3. If speaking in tongues is for everyone, then why did Paul teach that signs, miracles, and wonders (that obviously included speaking in tongues) were signs of a true apostle (2 Corinthians 12:12)?
4. If speaking in tongues is a sign of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, then why did Paul imply that not every believer was expected to speak in tongues (1 Corinthians 12:30)?
5. Since “tongues” were real languages at the time of Pentecost (Acts 2:6-11), why are the “tongues” that are spoken today nothing but babbling and gibberish?
6. Why, despite Paul’s warning against babbling or unintelligible speech (1 Corinthians 14:9-11), is this sort of speech still encouraged today?
7. Paul expressed that speaking in a language that was understood was better than speaking in an unknown language (1 Corinthians 14:19); therefore, shouldn’t there be no babbling today?
8. If, as some say, this babbling is “angelic utterance”, then why does Paul teach that there must be an interpreter (1 Corinthians 14:27-28)? Are there angels in the church that can interpret these babblings?
9. If the gift of speaking in tongues is still in operation today, then why is it necessary to send missionaries and other volunteers to foreign language schools? And why is the Bible still painstakingly being translated into numerous real foreign languages, year after year?
10. If the speaking in tongues occurred spontaneously at Pentecost, then why do people today teach others how to speak in tongues?
11. If the gift of speaking in tongues was a sign for the benefit of unbelieving Jews (1 Corinthians 14:21-22), then why is it spoken in churches today, and amongst gentile believers of all people?
12. Paul taught that if tongues are spoken that only one person at a time is to speak and no more than three people (and not at the same time!) are to speak (1 Corinthians 14:27); however, as far as I have witnessed, this is not the case today. Many people speak simultaneously, which results in chaos and confusion. Why do churches willingly allow that which is in direct violation of Scripture?
Questions Regarding Healing
1. If faith is required for healing (and lack of faith is a reason for a lack of healing), then why were unbelievers healed?
- The demon-possessed man from Gerasenes was healed (Luke 8:28-33)
- Jesus healed Malchus, who had his ear cut off by Peter (Luke 22:51; John 18:10)
- The man at the pool of Bethsaida was healed without knowing who Jesus was (John 5:11-13).
2. Why were people healed through the faith of others?
- The centurion’s faith healed his servant (Matthew 8:5-10)
- The paralytic was healed by the faith of the men who carried him (Mark 2:5)
- Jarius’ daughter was healed by his faith (Mark 5:35-43)
3. Why were people of faith not healed?
- Isaac and Jacob were blind in their later years (Genesis 27:1;48:10)
- Elisha died from an illness even though he had a double portion of God’s Spirit (2 Kings 13:14)
- Paul told Timothy to take wine for medicinal purposes (1 Timothy 5:23)
- Paul left Trophimus sick, without healing him (2 Timothy 4:20)
- Paul himself was not healed (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
4. Why do faith healers teach that we must continue to claim our healing for complete deliverance from illness when in the Bible healings were both immediate and complete?
- Peter’s mother-in-law was healed instantly (Matthew 8:14-15)
- The centurion’s servant was healed “at that very moment” (Matthew 8:13)
- Jesus healed the woman with chronic bleeding “immediately” (Mark 5:29)
- Leprosy “left” the leper and he was healed “immediately” (Luke 5:12-13)
- “…the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear…” (Matthew 11:5).
5. Why do we read in the Bible that obviously physical illnesses such as leprosy and paralysis were healed, whereas unseen afflictions such as arthritis or migraines are “healed” at healing crusades?
6. Why in the Bible were healings public and witnessed by people who knew the afflicted persons, whereas today we hear of “testimonies” of healing, often in faraway and remote places?
7. The apostles were given the power to heal – so why are there “healing schools” today?
8. Why aren’t faith healers curing the sick in hospitals or care centres? Additionally, as shown above, healing also occurred through the faith of others; therefore, if you, dear reader, have faith that healing is guaranteed, why are you not healing in the hospitals?
9. Why do faith healers wear prescription glasses? Why do they age? Why do they seek medical attention? Why do they fall ill at all?
10. Raising the dead, the handling of snakes, and the drinking of deadly poison without falling ill occurred in the Book of Acts, so why aren’t these activities occurring in the local assembly today?
11. Why did the believers in the Book of Acts seek healing from the apostles if they supposedly could heal themselves through their own faith?
12. Why is Scripture filled with the benefits of affliction and illness if we are supposed to be completely healthy?
13. If healing is guaranteed, why do all Christians (everyone, in fact) physically die?
Additional Questions to Consider:
1.In Scripture, signs verified the message of the messenger (Exodus 4:1-9;1 Kings 18:36-37;Joel 2:27-32;Acts 2:1-21;John 10:37-38;1 Corinthians 14:22). Today, we have the completed Scriptures and the Holy Spirit to testify to the truth (John 15:26;16:13). Other than salvation (since believers are performing “signs”), what would signs today signify?
2. If all Christians could perform signs and wonders, then why were they given to verify the identity of Jesus and true apostles (Acts 2:22; 2:43; 4:30; 5:12;14:3; Romans 15:18-19; 2 Corinthians 12:12; Hebrews 2:3-4)?
3. If there is a second baptism, which is evidenced by speaking in tongues, then why does Ephesians 4:5 state there is one baptism?
5. Since Satan and his sorcerers can perform lying signs and wonders (Exodus 7:11; 2 Thessalonians 2:9; Matthew 24:24), isn’t it dangerous to seek these experiences? Even those under Satan’s control can perform signs, so how do we know who the true believers are if everyone can perform these signs?
6. If signs are for today, why does Hebrews 2:3-4 state that signs were in the past?
7. The Holy Spirit was sent to testify about Jesus, who is the Word; therefore, why wouldn’t the Holy Spirit first correct the improper doctrine in the Charismatic movement before performing signs and wonders? Why wouldn’t this “Holy Spirit” testify about Jesus, as that is His main role?
8. If God is not a God of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33), why is there so much chaos at healing revivals and many Charismatic gatherings?
Let Us Reason Together (Isaiah 1:18)
After considering these questions and studying the Bible, can you, dear sister, still claim that the Word of God backs up your spiritual experiences? Do you really believe that the modern “tongues movement” reflects Pentecost? Have you noticed any discrepancies between charismatic experiences and the Word of God? Is it possible that you could be reading Scripture to fit your experience instead of submitting to the authority of God’s Word, regardless of what you feel and experience?
As mentioned earlier, I do not expect to end the debate as to whether the “sign gifts” are still in operation today, but might I suggest that instead of seeking signs, that we rather seek after the truth! To seek the truth is to pursue Jesus – not only is Christ Jesus the Truth (John 14:6), but wisdom and knowledge are found in Him (Colossians 2:3). Don’t let your experiences and feelings guide you, but let the Word of God be a lamp to your feet and a guide for your path (Psalm 119:105).
Hallowed be His name,