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Truth or Snare? Testing Your Pentecostal/Charismatic Experiences Against Scripture

 

Do you know why you believe what you believe about your Charismatic experiences?

 

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?

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?

4. The Bible condemns against seeking signs and giving signs (Matthew 12:38-39; 16:4; Mark 8:11-12; Luke 11:29), so why do so many Christian seek them?

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,

Pamela

 

But-grow-in-the-grace-and-knowledgeof-our-Lord-and-Savior-Jesus-Christ

12 Comments

12 Comments on Truth or Snare? Testing Your Pentecostal/Charismatic Experiences Against Scripture

  1. Scribbles
    February 26, 2016 at 9:19 am (1 year ago)

    I would like to comment on some of the things in your post. I’ll start off by saying that I lived next door to a Jehovah’s Witness woman 30 years ago and she would say things to me and I would think “that’s not in the Bible” but after some time I thought to myself that I didn’t really know what the Bible actually did say. So I sat down and decided to read my New Testament to find out what it had to say. So I read with an open mind and found so many things in the Word that I didn’t know were there. I became a Christian in 1995. In a conservative independent Baptist Church and remained there for nearly 9 years. But I still retained my independence when it came to having what I heard be backed up by the Bible itself. And over the years since then I still prefer to sit and open concordances, dictionaries and doing cross-references and topical studies to accepting whatever I am told.

    I come from a position of taking everything the Bible says into account when it comes to the who, what, why and when and how of what to believe. The problem is that I, and ALL Christians want to be humble in our belief system but we refuse to believe there is bias on our part. We ask God to show us truth and to expose error. And yet people going to the same Church will have a different perspective on the same belief area or even the very same doctrine.

    I have a small book entitled “Quotes To Live By!” and sub-titled “Learning to listen to those who suffer for Christ”. There is a chapter (they are all very small and short chapter sometimes only being 2 page in length) and Chapter 11 is titled “The Whole Truth” and a Chinese Bible teacher is quoted as saying “When you open one page of the Bible, all the other ones are closed. That’s very important to remember.” He went on to say this “The most dangerous attitude we can have as Christians is to think that the whole truth of God is on the page I am reading. But God is much bigger than one page. You must remember all the ones that are closed and read them too, and then come up with a doctrine. But bear this in mind: Since no one can remember all the pages at once, be humble about your doctrines, which are always just preliminary and sketchy, and remember God is always bigger than your ideas about him”.

    My experiences in my 20 years of being a Christian is seeing people be told what to believe. And those Pastors, Missionaries, and Evangelists are all very sincere. But they are passing on what they believe and were taught. Most new Christians know very little about what the Bible says when they get saved. They might know about Noah and the flood, or Joseph and his coat, or Moses and the Red Sea, or Jonah and the fish. As new and immature Christians they are taught what to believe. A belief or doctrine is put forward and backed up with 5-6 verses of Scripture and usually a new Christian accepts it without realising they are only getting part of what the Bible says. And they are not getting the “other” verses that might make them think differently. Or give them a better balanced view.

    Your questions are very good ones to ask, I’m big on questions too. And I do believe God has given me this “thing” where I ask the curly questions. Questions most Christians wouldn’t even think of. As an example let me share a conversation through email I had with my penpal who is a Southern Baptist. We were having the Pastor’s wife give the sermon one Sunday morning, and I fully expected her to mention that that was not right and quote the well known verse about women and authority and she ought not to be doing it. I then mentioned that we should not take just one thing the Bible says about women in the Church and ignore the other 2. The 2 that tell us that women are to be silent in the Church. Sunday School, standing up and giving a testimoney are in direct violation to what Paul said in 2 different places that women are to be silent in Church. The greek word means to be silent. All the information I have ever read about why Paul would say this is not found in the text of Scripture but comes out of thin air. She did mention about how women play a great role in the Church teaching Sunday School, but the truth is it is a great contradiciton. Why do we not want women preaching in Church (because it’s in the Word) and not have the rule that women are to be silent in the Church (because it’s in the Word, not once but twice without any reason given that implies it was just for back then and not today). Paul said it, it’s in the Word, we ARE to obey it even though we don’t understand it. To me this is an example of where we will be passionate about what is in the Bible until it goes against what we believe. I’ve heard many a reason why Paul couldn’t possibly mean what he said about women being silent, but he said it.

    Try as we might we all look at the Word with biased eyes and don’t take into account EVERY thing the Bible says about a specific area, doctrine or issue. We want to believe we don’t and we want to believe we are very sincere in just wanting Truth and rejecting error. I know this is long, but in closing I just want to say that as I read through the questions about tongues I straight away thought of at least 3-4 text areas that were ignored. And lastly I would label myself a conservative who does believe in tongues. I was taken to task by a sister about the fact that I believe that sometimes tongues is known languages and she was horrified that I thought that. I gave many examples that I had read, one of which was a business man on a flight from one side of the US to the other who sat next to a man who was from middle eastern heritage. He tried to talk to him about the Lord and the man got madder and madder until the Christian businessman thought he was going to hit him. So he stopped talking. He said God told him to speak to him in tongues, but he argued with God for some time because he was sure the man would punch him if he tried to speak to him again. But in the end he did. The middle eastern man sat quietly and listened and the business man asked him what he had said and he said he had spoken to him about the Light. While I am very conservative in my belief system I can not ignore things like that. Sorry this is so long.

    Reply
    • Pamela
      February 26, 2016 at 9:34 am (1 year ago)

      I too found myself not knowing what was in the Bible, despite years of reading it. I’m not sure how I missed all that I did.

      “A belief or doctrine is put forward and backed up with 5-6 verses of Scripture and usually a new Christian accepts it without realising they are only getting part of what the Bible says.” – true, and sometimes a belief system is built around only one verse!

      The quote by the Chinese Bible teacher reminded me that we must interpret Scripture by Scripture.

      I agree with the fact that women are not supposed to pastor or teach men in the Church. I think people who disagree with that don’t understand Biblical authority, nor do they understand that women are more vulnerable to deception than men.

      I thank you for taking the time to share your comments and for sharing the story you had read. Have a blessed day 🙂

      Reply
  2. Glenn E. Chatfield
    February 26, 2016 at 10:36 am (1 year ago)

    Excellent list of questions! This one’s a keeper 🙂

    Reply
    • Pamela
      February 26, 2016 at 10:53 am (1 year ago)

      Thank you kindly, Glenn 🙂

      Reply
  3. Lisa Preuett
    February 26, 2016 at 11:05 am (1 year ago)

    Thanks for sharing such insightful words of wisdom that come from God’s word. I will pray for you in regards to your health condition. Good to get a post from you again! 😀

    Reply
    • Pamela
      February 26, 2016 at 11:23 am (1 year ago)

      Aw, thank you for the encouraging message, Lisa, and thank you for your prayers. Very appreciated! 😀

      Reply
  4. DebbieLynne
    February 26, 2016 at 1:18 pm (1 year ago)

    Mike Abendroth posed similar questions on No Compromise Radio this week. These are vitally important questions that can’t be asked enough!

    Reply
    • Pamela
      February 26, 2016 at 2:17 pm (1 year ago)

      I’ll have to listen to that, thanks, Debbie!

      Reply
  5. Susie
    February 27, 2016 at 2:12 am (1 year ago)

    I’m praying for you! Great post and as you know, I have a million questions. This really helped me to think or come at it differently. May the Lord richly bless you my friend. 😀

    Reply
    • Pamela
      February 27, 2016 at 11:07 am (1 year ago)

      Hi Susie, thank you for your prayers! I’m happy to answer your questions as best I can. God’s richest blessings to you as well, sister.

      Reply
  6. R
    March 2, 2016 at 9:46 am (1 year ago)

    Want to know what’s being said when speaking in tongues? Ask a missionary. Many will tell you that they have indeed understood what new believers were saying in a foreign country when that non-English speaking person received the Holy Ghost in an English speaking tongue.

    Reply
    • Pamela
      March 2, 2016 at 12:12 pm (1 year ago)

      Respectfully, since Scripture commands us to test everything, I would have to test their experience to Scripture – which would lead me back to the questions that I posed in the article, specifically, would this then mean that we can stop sending missionaries to language schools? Can we stop translating the Bible into foreign languages? I would also have to make sure that the missionary’s life displayed the fruit of the Spirit and salvation in order to determine that they would not be deceived by false signs and wonders.

      Reply

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