Responding Biblically to the Practice of Tongues

Using the doctrinal statements provided by the church of the Assemblies of God, this article evaluates the modern practice of glossolalia in light of Scripture.

Introduction

The Azuza Street Revival which began in 1906 is widely held as the initial resurgence of the Scriptural practice of speaking in tongues, or glossolalia, in the modern day. Glossolalia became one of the central components of the movement that came to be known as Pentecostalism. A Pew Forum study in 2011 found an estimated total of 279,080,000 Pentecostals, and calculated that the group comprised 12.8% of the world’s Christian population.1 Of that group, the largest denomination is the Assemblies of God, with over 56 million followers worldwide.

The Assemblies of God believes and practices glossolalia, claiming clear Scriptural support for its presentation of the doctrine. Its doctrine of glossolalia along with every other dogmatically defined doctrine is presented in its sixteen fundamental truths and a series of position papers.2 This paper will compare the Assemblies of God definition of glossolalia and various alternative views on the subject, and then present from Scriptural evidence a necessary refutation of the doctrine.

  1. Pew Research Center, “Global Christianity: A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World’s Christian Population,” December 2011 [on-line], accessed 11 May 2013, available from http://www.pewforum.org/uploadedFiles/Topics/Religious_Affiliation/Christian/Christianity-fullreport-web.pdf []
  2. The truths are the doctrinal basis for their belief and practice. The position papers are a supplement to these truths, approved by the General Council addressing specific issues. “As the need arises to make a statement on a controversial issue, a study is done and a report given to the General Presbytery for approval as an official statement of The General Council of the Assemblies of God” (http://ag.org/top/Beliefs/Position_Papers/index.cfm, par. 1). The fundamental truths and position papers are provided online at www.ag.org []

A Growing Ministry

Having spent nearly my entire life on the mission field in Spain, I’ve had at least a tiny part in church ministry here for 24 years now. During that time, I’ve lived through, dare I say, almost monotonous times with little external, visible growth apparent in the local church. My patience is no match for the Holy Spirit’s, so “slow times” were discouraging. Then though, there were times when it seemed hard to even keep up with all the opportunities the Holy Spirit was providing. I remember a time of several months as a young boy when God seemed to open the floodgates of blessing. It was exciting to come to church on Sundays just to see what visitors would be there for the first time! Jesus promised “I will build my church,” and nothing is more fulfilling that watching the construction process!

2013-04-01%252016.14.24The past few months have been part of the second category. It has been a thrill to see Jesus at work here in Irun. In my last update I shared the news of Amadeo’s salvation. Since then, he has been growing continuously. I’ve been meeting with him and a friend every week now for Bible or “doctrine” studies, and they ask for more time together. It is a joy to see Amadeo’s infectious smile in church each time the doors are open. He carries his Bible with him 24/7 now and shares with me what he reads.

You may remember that one of the guys brought Amadeo with him a Saturday in November when the young people from church got together to play soccer. It was from there that he began coming to church, and eventually received Christ. For the past few months, I’ve been going out every week to play soccer in town with anyone who shows up. It has been an excellent way to make contact with unsaved people from town, and I’ve formed several acquaintances and friendships through soccer since starting. I got to know one guy especially well. His family is Catholic, but he had been living rebelliously for a while. About a month ago, Amadeo, who plays soccer with me and knows the other guy too, brought him along for one of our Saturday youth meetings. He was of course very welcomed and had a great time, and came back the next week. Then he started coming to church on Sundays as well.

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God recently brought another young man to our church as well. He’s a Basque fellow who’s very quiet and shy, but it has been awesome to have another unsaved person coming weekly to church to hear the Gospel. Well, last week, God gave a special surprise! After a special evening service, both of the ones I mentioned asked to speak with a leader once the service was done. After going through the Gospel once more, one prayed with me asking Christ to save him, and the other did the same with my grandfather! This Sunday both were back in church with bigger smiles than I’d ever seen on either of them.

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Two of these just recently prayed to accept Christ

Please pray especially hard for these guys. In the coming years, I hope to be able to share the things God is doing through the changed lives of the people being saved today. I know He has great plans for them, but like each one of us, they need the miraculous hand of God to mold them into useful servants. Please consider praying for them specifically on a regular basis.

I’ll finish with an anecdote I thought was a great testimony. A few days ago, a friend came to the discipleship class I’m doing with Amadeo. As Amadeo leafed through his Bible, my friend jokingly asked him if he’d read through the whole thing yet. Amadeo answered very seriously, “estoy en ello,” or “I’m working on it.” Please pray that the Lord would use these discipleship opportunities in their lives. Please pray that God would give me the passion to lead with all my energy and the wisdom I lack for counseling.

God bless,
David
Ps. 34:3