A Sidekick's Blog

The Gift of Tongues

April 19, 2014
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While still active in the charismatic movement, I became disillusioned with the obvious disparity between the bible descriptions and accounts of the charismatic gifts, especially the gift of tongues. If it is supposed to be “a sign – not to believers, but to unbelievers (1 Cor 14:22), why had I never heard an unbeliever interpret a message in tongues at church? If it is a “prayer language,” then why did we use it so extensively as part of our corporate worship when 1 Corinthians 14 tells us not to? I was overwhelmed with questions and suspicious of even my own experience. So I began a study of the bible and of early church history in order to determine the true biblical nature and purpose of the charismatic gifts. I was not seeking to prove or disprove anything, only to discover the true nature and purpose of the gifts. Here are the results of that study:

The Truth About

The Gift of Tongues

©1999 by Robin Arnaud
used by permission of the author – me!

While still active in the charismatic movement, I became disillusioned with the obvious disparity between the bible descriptions and accounts of the charismatic gifts, especially the gift of tongues. If it is supposed to be “a sign – not to believers, but to unbelievers (1 Cor 14:22), why had I never heard an unbeliever interpret a message in tongues at church? If it is a “prayer language,” then why did we use it so extensively as part of our corporate worship when 1 Corinthians 14 tells us not to? I was overwhelmed with questions and suspicious of even my own experience. So I began a study of the bible and of early church history in order to determine the true biblical nature and purpose of the charismatic gifts. I was not seeking to prove or disprove anything, only to discover the true nature and purpose of the gifts. Here are the results of that study:

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The PURPOSE of Tongues

God is a God of order and design (1 Cor 14:33). When He does something, He does so with a plan and purpose. The Lord did not speak in parables, for instance, just to be clever or to appear profound. Scripture teaches that He used parables with the express intent of hiding the truth from the non-elect (Mark 4:11,12) and revealing it to the lowly (1 Cor 1:26-29). Likewise, miracles and gifts are to be understood as having a particular purpose. They served as signs validating the message which they accompanied (John 20:30,31; Acts 2:43, 4:16; 2 Cor 12:12; Gal 3:5; Rom 15:17-19). The purpose of the impartation of gifts by the Apostles (both scripture and subsequent church history demonstrate that the gifts were bestowed only by the Apostles and no one else – ever) was to validate the Apostles’ teachings.

Why do some bible teachers claim that tongues is Satanic?

Paul warned Timothy that in latter times many would fall away from the faith, giving heed to “seducing spirits and doctrines of demons.” Since Christ rendered Satan and all his demons powerless by His death and resurrection, the only power demons now have is the power of deceit. Demons are deceiving angels. They get people to listen to their lies by making their lies attractive and alluring. Paul called them “seducing spirits” (1 Tim 4:1). A major reason so many folks believe it is Satanic is because there are so many “gifts” which do not validate the Apostles‘ teaching. Remember the slave girl with “a spirit of divination” who followed the Apostle Paul crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation!” (Acts 16:16-18). It turned out that her “prophesyings” were the work of a demon in spite of her message! Paul cast the demon from her and she stopped prophesying. How could Paul tell that the servant girl’s “gift” was demonic? Two reasons:

1. No Apostle had imparted the gift to her, and

  1. Her prophesyings used Paul’s ministry to validate HER message instead of the other way around! They served a purpose directly opposed to the one intended for genuine gifts of the Spirit.

Charismatic gifts today are often used to “validate” someone else’s ministry or teaching – someone whose teachings are NOT those of the apostles. They use the Apostles’ writings and borrow their words, but they use them to give credibility to their OWN ministry. A demon did exactly that in Acts 16! So it stands to reason that a seducing spirit would use that same tactic today – not to confirm the apostles’ doctrine, but the doctrines of a modern-day messenger who teaches something much different.

-The Bible’s Description of Tongues-

I. The FORM of Tongues in Scripture: Whenever we see tongues mentioned in the bible, it ALWAYS takes the form of a structured foreign language – never “ecstatic gibberish.” One common and persistent peculiarity of many Charismatics is the teaching that tongues-speaking is “of men and angels” – even the language of Heaven itself! This idea is lifted from 1 Corinthians 13:1 where Paul writes, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels…” Even a casual reading of this passage demonstrates Paul’s use of hyperbole as a literary device. “Even if I could” rather than “because I can.” Looking at the verse further: “Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels and have not love…” Paul was not asserting that he could speak in the language of the angels any more than he was asserting that he had no love! 1 Cor 13:1 is no justification for claims that tongues can be “the language of the angels.” And even if it were so, how could an unbeliever interpret it (14:22)?

A) In Acts 2, many people from many places heard the gospel preached In their own dialects. Peter told the crowd that that event was the fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel (Joel 2:28ff), which makes absolutely no mention of tongues at all but speaks of prophecy, dreams, visions, and signs. Paul later wrote that tongues are “for a SIGN… to unbelievers (1 Cor 14:22).

B) In every event subsequent to the one in Acts 2 where tongues was present, “the Holy Spirit fell on them… “Just as He did on us at the beginning (Acts 11:15-17),” which must mean that tongues on those occasions were like the tongues in Acts 2 – a verifiable foreign language, a sign to unbelievers.

C) The Pentecost form of tongues is the same as for all later forms of tongues-speaking. Every reference in the bible to tongues speaking employs the same basic terminology, implying similarity of form.

D) The Corinthian episodes are defined in terms fully compatible with those in Acts. Paul writes, “no language is without meaning” (1 Cor 14:10). He compares tongues to worldly languages and asserts that all of them have coherent meaning. Tongues, biblically, is certainly not the incoherent babbling gibberish that I witnessed in my charismatic and Pentecostal churches.

 

II. The CONTENT of Tongues in Scripture: Tongues was a revelational gift – a vehicle of revelation from God to man. Tongues brought revelation from God as surely as the gift of prophecy brought revelation from God to the prophets and apostles of old. Thus, tongues must be understood in scripture to have brought inspired, inerrant, and authoritative communication from God to man:

A) The first occurrence of tongues is defined as prophetic by Peter (Acts 2:11-18).

B) Tongues are almost always related to other revelational gifts in scripture (Acts 2, 19, 1 Cor 13 and 14). In Acts 19 they “spoke with tongues and prophesied.” In 1 Corinthians tongues are dealt with at great length in association with prophecy. The difference was that prophecy was the ability to speak infallibly the will of God in one’s own language, while tongues was the ability to speak infallibly the will of God in a language one had never learned. In both cases it could interpreted by UNBELIVERS.

C) Tongues are specifically said to be a speaking of mysteries (1 Cor 14:2). When the word mystery is used in scripture it is always in terms of revelation. A mystery spoken becomes a revelation.

The content of tongues, then, is seen to be infallible, inerrant, inspired revelation of God’s mysteries to man. The tongues we see today among Charismatics and Pentecostals surely does not measure up to this lofty biblical standard. In fact in every service I ever attended in twenty years as a charismatic where tongues was used, it never took the form of a discernable foreign language, and its “interpretation” was never treated as an infallible revelation from God. It used to trouble me very deeply that a direct word from Heaven could be treated so lightly by the hearers – instead of writing it down and being careful to obey it and publish it, the people would nod and say, “Thanks, Lord, for that good word,” treating it more like a divine Hallmark card greeting from Heaven than a revelation from the Sovereign Master of the universe. The Almighty is not sitting on His throne blowing kisses to people on the earth – His word should be treated with the utmost care and held with extreme reverence – just as we claim to treat the bible. But tongues are not treated that way today.

III. The Purpose of Tongues in scripture: As I mentioned at the beginning, God is a God of order and design and when He acts, He does so with a purpose and plan. We see that parables had a specific purpose (Mark 4:11,12); that miracles have a particular purpose (Jn 20:30-31, Acts 2:43 and 4:16, Rom 15:17-19, 2 Cor 12:12), and likewise that the gift of tongues served a very specific purpose: They validated the Apostles’ message, and they were an anticipated sign of covenant curse upon unbelieving Israel.

A) Tongues were a sign to validate the message of the apostles (Mark 16:17), and Paul’s in particular (Acts 10:44-46, 19:6). ONLY the Apostles had the authority and ability to impart the gifts to others through the laying on of hands or prayer. None of the people they laid hands on could pass he Holy Spirit or the gifts on to others. There is not a single instance in scripture nor in subsequent church history to support the contention that anyone other than the Apostles could “impart” the Holy Spirit and His gifts. Those who received these sign-gifts at the hands of the Apostles were not able to pass them along to others. If they were, then it would not have been necessary to send Apostles to Samaria in order for them to receive the Holy Spirit (and other examples). The example of Ananias (Acts 9:10-19) is often used to attempt to refute that argument, but the text does not say that Saul spoke in tongues or prophesied. It says only that his eyesight was restored and he was baptized in water. We don’t hear any more about Saul until way up there in chapter 13, where the Apostles laid hands on him and Barnabus. The fact that Paul passed the charismata to others was one of the proofs that he was to be counted among the Apostles (Acts 19, 2 Cor 12:12, Eph 3:7ff). It was extremely important to establish Paul’s apostleship with “the signs of an Apostle (2 Cor 12:12),” because God’s inclusion of the Gentiles was such a radical departure from the old covenant. It was also important that Paul be counted as an Apostle because Paul wrote most of the New Testament. That is why many of his letters to the churches open with the phrase, “Paul, an apostle by the will of God…”

B) Tongues were a sign of covenant curse upon unbelieving Israel.Since this is probably the most neglected and most misunderstood purpose of tongues, it bears a lot more explaining, so be sure to examine these scriptures closely and in context: Paul explains this use of the sign in 1 Cor 14:21-22:

In the Law it is written, ‘by men of strange tongues and by the lips of strangers will I speak to this people, and even so they will not listen to Me,’ says the Lord. So then, tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe, but to unbelievers; but prophecy is for a sign not to unbelievers, but to those who believe” (NASB).

Bear with a lengthy explanation now:

1) The Old Testament teaches that Israel was a special people to God. He was bound in a special covenantal love to Israel alone among the nations of the earth (Deut 7:6-8, Amos 3:2), thus only they received His law (Deut 4:10-13, Psalm 147:19-20), His oracles (Rom 3:2), the covenantal sign of circumcision (Rom 3:1) – indeed, all the promises and means of covenant life (Rom 9:4-5, Eph 2:12).

2) This covenant with Israel was a two-edged sword. Covenant life was one of both privilege and responsibility. Obedience brought both spiritual and material blessings, and disobedience brought spiritual and material curses (see Deut 28:1-68 which describes alternate covenant blessings and covenant curses).

3) Israel was a nation of people accustomed to signs (Matt 12:38, 1 Cor 1:20-22). Within the covenant contract they were given warning signs which would serve to indicate that the calamities which would befall them were indeed the judgments of God on them. One of the most often-seen signs was the loss of national freedom and self-rule (Deut 28:49). It is also referred to in similar context in Jer 5:15 and Isa 28:11. In scripture after scripture, foreign tongues was a sign of covenant curse on Israel.

Most often it was the language of the foreign occupiers of Israel, but at the dawn of the New Covenant it becomes especially poignant. All of this becomes relevant to the gift of tongues in the New Testament by the fact that Paul applies the sign of covenantal curse (Isa 28:11) to his explanation of the gift of tongues in 1 Cor 14:21-22. The fact that Paul lifted this scripture out of a passage dealing with covenantal curse is extremely significant! To grasp it’s impact you need to look at the reference Paul is quoting in his 1 Cor 14 discourse – Isa 28. In the very heart of God’s rebuke against Israel is the verse Paul quotes… the one that gives the sign of the curse (verse 11). Of course the Isaiah passage referred to the impending Assyrian invasion of Israel, but the Apostle Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, applies it further to the future and climactic judgment upon Israel subsequent to their rejection of Christ.

4) Christ, the “Messenger of the Covenant,” (Mal 3:1) and “Ratifier of the New Covenant” (Luke 22:20), came to, lovingly courted, and taught Israel. Yet Israel refused His overtures (Matt 23:37, Acts 28:17-31, Rom 9:31-32 and 10:3). The generation to which Christ ministered was rapidly filling up the measure of the guilt of their forefathers (Matt 23:32). Jesus even went to far as to tell them that that single generation would bear the guilt of all righteous blood shed on earth – from Abel to Zecharaiah (verses 35 and 36). It is a judgment they themselves repeated at His trial: “His blood be upon us and our children! (Matthew 27:25)” Therefore, that generation (Matt 23:36 and 24:43) was to receive the fullness of God’s covenantal curse: God would send Roman armies (Luke 21:20) to raze the temple (Matt 24:2) which the Lord left desolate (Matt 23:38). Thus the sign of judgment (foreign tongues) was given to Israel for a period of 40 years between Christ’s ascension and the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple by the Romans in 70 AD. God was turning from Israel to the Gentiles (Matt 23:37-38; Rom 9:24-29 and 10:19-21)!

5) Tongues had a particular application with regard to Jewish unbelief in light of the New Covenant. In Acts 2 the Jews in particular were called to attention (verse 12), after which they were charged with having slain the Lord of Glory (v 22-24). The double-edged sword of covenant curse fell hard upon then, with the result that many were cut to the heart and repented (Acts 2:37) to follow Christ.

6) The Corinthian church itself is further glaring evidence that tongues was a sign of covenantal curse on Israel! Acts 18 records that Paul’s 18-month-lomg ministry at Corinth (verse 11) was characterized by extremely heated opposition from the Jews. While teaching at the Corinthian synagogue, Jewish opponents resisted the gospel to the point of blasphemy, causing Paul to call down a curse upon them (verse 6). Resistance to the gospel was so violent in Corinth that the Lord appeared to Paul in a vision, promising special protection from harm (verses 12 and 13). In his letter to the Corinthian church, Paul makes reference in the opening verses to the Jews and their desire for signs (1 Cor 1:22). Paul’s citation of Isaiah 28 should be decisive proof. In chapter 10 Paul dealt at length with “our fathers” and their disobedience and judgment, and warned the Corinthians of the same predicament if they weren’t careful (10:1-12).

Tongues then, were “for a sign” – a sign to unbelieving, Christ-rejecting Israel – and in particular, the generation that had murdered Christ. Tongues was God’s prophesied and anticipated sign of covenantal curse.

IV. The transience of Tongues in Scripture: Because scripture demonstrates what the PURPOSE of tongues was – to validate the APOSTLES’ ministry and to serve as the covenantal sign to Israel, it necessarily follows that once those purposes were achieved, the sign would cease. Even those who believe in modern-day tongues speaking agree that the canon is complete – thus they cannot possibly use the gift today in the same sense that it was used throughout the New Testament – inerrant, infallible oracles of God to man.

Modern-day manifestations of charismatic gifts defy the biblical and historical form, content, and purpose described in scripture, and thus it is clear that today’s form of tongues is an unbiblical counterfeit.

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Copyright 1999 Robin Arnaud.

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Holy Spirit Baptism – Part Two

April 12, 2014
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Be sure to read Part One before you read on. This is Part Two.

In Part One I described conversion to Christ, the longing of a 12-year-old to be like some of the older kids in the youth group who were “on fire for God,” and the secret they kept that got us all thrown out of our church when it was exposed. Then followed a search for a new church and the introduction of a radical idea: The church in the city, just being birthed in my hometown by three charismatic teachers.

There were a few Charismatic churches in town that I was to learn about in my 8th grade year, but I just had to visit the one where a girl I had a crush on went. Her father was the pastor of Memorial Baptist Church. Pastor Arnold was instrumental in introducing the new bible teachers to Fort Lauderdale. I wasn’t allowed to go to church on Sundays, but I was able to get rides to Bob Mumford’s Monday night teaching sessions at Memorial Baptist Church. He taught there until the crowds grew too large and the meetings moved to the Governor’s Club Hotel downtown. I used to literally sit at Bob Mumford’s feet for lack of any other seating. And besides, all the kids sat on the floor up front and we wouldn’t have had it any other way. Bob Mumford was entertaining and wonderful, and had a special way of making mysterious teachings sound perfectly sensible.

The Monday night meetings were captivating! The entire crowd, gathered from a half-dozen Charismatic and Pentecostal churches in the area, would sing with abandon to the glory of God. No one really led the song service beyond the first song or two. After that all of the worship was spontaneous, and seemed to be choreographed by the Holy Spirit Himself. As if on cue it might suddenly get quiet, then spontaneously erupt in made-up melodies with unintelligible lyrics. It was angelic-sounding, robust yet subdued, sweet and intimate. Hands in the air, eyes closed, just “letting the Spirit overflow.” I had never seen such heartfelt worship from so many people before, so completely absorbed in rapturous ecstasy. I had seen the super-spiritual kids from my old youth group do it, but this was hundreds of people! I yearned for the intimacy with God that they seemed to have. And I was sure that “Holy Spirit baptism” was the missing ingredient in my life.

There were plenty of people around to help me get “baptized in the Spirit,” including one very attentive “prophet” who told me, “God has called you to the ministry even from the womb, and I am to be your guide.” He even tried to take me from my home to go live with him and I would have gone happily. Until I learned from an older kid that this so-called “prophet” was a pedophile who was especially attracted to vulnerable, frail-looking pre-teen boys.

Oh well. There were others to help me get this “Spirit baptism,” and I wanted it desperately. There seemed to be differences of opinion among my mentors about “how to get baptized in the Spirit,” but some of the things they all had in common were:

  • Be completely pure in heart, “sold out” to God,
  • Confess every last known sin,
  • Pray unceasingly seeking the baptism,
  • Put aside absolutely every other interest,
  • Make peace with every enemy … in short,
  • “Be ye perfect, even as He is perfect.”

I was far from that. I thought I needed the power of the Spirit to achieve such purity and holiness, yet my teachers pressed this spiritual perfection as a prerequisite for receiving the Spirit’s power. Had I not lost sight of the truth, that salvation of imperfect, corrupt, depraved sinners is by grace alone, I might have asked:

If it is possible to achieve such spiritual perfection without Holy Spirit baptism, then what do I need Spirit baptism for?

But alas, as in the years of darkness in the Church before the Reformation, the gospel had become obscured behind mystery, superstition, and gnostic-like seeking after “deeper experiences of God.” Years before, I had been taught that every Christian has the Holy Spirit dwelling within. And if I had kept my bible open and my mouth shut, I might have apprehended the meaning of “Christ in you, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27)” and “in Him you have been made complete (2:10),” “made alive with Him (verse 13).” No, it is not possible to “qualify” for God’s grace. No one can earn the Holy Spirit by their own efforts. The best we can offer is like filthy rags to Him! Spirit baptism and having a “prayer language” were treated like some sort of merit badge for advanced Christianity. No “head-knowledge-only” Christian could possibly understand the rewards of being “Spirit-filled.”

It took nearly a year of radical, desperate prayer and pleading and seeking and crying and begging and imploring God to pleeeeeeease immerse me in His Spirit and give me my prayer language so I could truly live for Him and have the power to be like these others; effortlessly soaring far above the “ordinary” Christian who had only doctrine and catechism and orthodoxy to guide him. But then, riding my bicycle home from Rogers Middle School, I was westbound on Davie Boulevard at the intersection of SW 9th Avenue when it happened. I still remember every detail of that magical moment when my “prayer language” spilled out out my mouth through tears of joy. I jumped off my bike and danced and jumped around, singing and crying and babbling away in ecstasy for 15 minutes or more right there on the side of the busy four-lane boulevard. Looking back, I can imagine that if it had happened today, several people might have called 9-1-1 to report “an obviously mentally disturbed kid having some sort of attack or seizure or something.” Thankfully, cell phones were not in common use in 1971.

Now, at last, I thought I would never wander away from God or fail Him again. Now I had POWER, and even the devil himself couldn’t interfere with my perfect prayers, because they would by-pass my mind and go directly from my pure spirit to God’s throne (conspicuously absent from my thinking was the clear biblical teaching of prayer directed to the Father through the Son, by the Spirit), free from the interference of any evil thought that the devil might put in my head. I could be His real true faithful sidekick now that I had been baptized in the Spirit!

And speaking in tongues was to be just the beginning. Bob Mumford described it this way:

Tongues is like the ABCs. You learn them in kindergarten. But even when you’re writing you doctoral thesis in astrophysics, you still use the ABCs! It’s only that you have grown in maturity to a point where you can use them to edify others.

I knew I was on my way to something wonderful. Maybe prophecy or healing or miracle-working faith! Or maybe special knowledge from God like Pat Robertson had: “Someone named Sally has just been healed of cancer! You know who you are, because you just felt the pain go away, just now.” Or maybe I would even have the gift of discerning spirits! Then I would know the next time some false prophet was hoping to molest me, or if someone had the wrong interpretation of a message delivered in tongues. What an adventure I was starting! I had lost touch with all the super-spiritual kids from the little church I started at, but if only they could see me now! And if only that little “head-knowledge-only” church could open up to the experience of God instead of just knowing about Him!

How little I knew what was coming. How unaware I was of how far I had already strayed from the truth. If Calvary Presbyterian Church had cared enough to take us kids to the scriptures instead of just tossing us out of the church, I might have been spared from 20 years of “wilderness wandering.” But God had an even bigger plan than I could have imagined.

The great Fort Lauderdale Experiment was ready to start, and “shepherds” were already being selected and trained. For a sneak peek at the next exciting episode, click HERE!

Until then,
Robin

 


Nazareth’s Lack of Faith

March 13, 2014
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In Matthew 13:58 we are told that Jesus did not do many miracles in Nazareth because of the population’s unbelief. It does not say that He couldn’t do any miracles because of their unbelief, but that He didn’t. But Mark’s account of the story (Mark 6:1-6) says “He could do no miracle there except that He laid His lands on a few people and healed them (verse 5).”

Some would have us believe that the people’s lack of faith actually thwarted Jesus’ ability to perform mighty works in that city.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact Jesus did do miracles there, healing a few people. A Charismatic might suppose that those healings should have produced faith in others, thus “enabling Jesus” to do greater works there, and those greater works would encourage greater faith and greater works in turn. “Poor Jesus. He can do nothing without our faith to enable Him.” That’s ridiculous and borders on blasphemy!

Jesus did not need the people’s faith in order to work miracles. He chose to do no miracles there because miracles are of no value to those without faith (see 1 Corinthians 13:2). Additionally I dare say that Jesus’ refusal to work miracles in His old home town was an act of great mercy towards them, for where there are great signs, there is great judgement. The pronouncement of judgement against unbelieving Israel (in Matthew 23), who had seen many miraculous signs and still refused to believe, was unprecedented. Jesus said that His own generation of unbelieving covenant people were to bear “the guilt of all righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the Temple and the altar (Matthew 23:35).” Those who had been given the greater signs suffered the greater judgement. Jesus showed great mercy to His old home town neighbors be not multiplying their guilt with many miraculous signs.

Word-of-Faith Charismaticism is tyrannical, because it blames the victims of sickness or loss for “lack of faith.” It claims a god who is impotent because his desire can be thwarted by his own puny little corrupt creatures, yet they can supposedly learn how to “manipulate” their god by using “gos-pill Capps-ules” (Charles Capps’ name for using selected Bible verses as mantras) to “generate faith” that supposedly moves him. Even the wicked can do it, according to the Word-of-Faith teachers.

It seems that the wicked are indeed doing that… but the true and living God is not moved by even the most ardent faith in lies! It is His own will and word that is being worked out in every act of every creature, not the creatures who influence and enable their Creator.


A Trap Along The Journey

August 14, 2012
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This Part Three in a series. Please read the two previous posts to get the larger picture of my journey so far.

While I was newly converted and living in a non-Christian home with unbelieving parents, I was still able to share my faith with my parents and siblings. The abuse continued, but I was carried along through it by my Lord and Superhero, Jesus Christ. Had I followed His written word and remained under the discipline of those who had brought me this far on my journey, I might have avoided some of the heartache and “wilderness wandering” that my teen years introduced, which endured for over twenty years.

That time was not wasted, though! For despite my unruliness and vain pursuit of things other than what God has already provided to His children in Christ, God redeemed those years and used the experience to prepare me for a unique and wonderful ministry to hundreds of my fellow sojourners in that particular wilderness.

Most of the older kids in the church youth group caught on to a movement that had been sweeping through the Church in our little part of the world for a few years. Folks called it “the Charismatic Movement” and it was remarkable for it’s adaptability. Crossing denominational lines and sweeping away laymen and clergy alike, it became a means of seducing its followers into a world of subjective experience-seeking, superstition, chaos, and naturally following all that, spiritual abuse.

Seeking and receiving “Holy Spirit baptism” promised a whole new way of experiencing God. It promised unparallelled intimacy with God, supernatural powers, knowledge, and gifts, deeper and more intimate worship, and dominion of the surrounding culture. It promised to open the door to a revival of first-century Christianity complete with apostolic miracles and thousands of new converts adding to our number every day. The promise of being powerful was very attractive to a skinny, awkward, abused, mildly autistic kid like me. Now I could have real power and respect, and physical proof of God’s acceptance, approval, and anointing! If only I could get that Holy Spirit baptism.

But of course, in order to get it, there were conditions: No unconfessed sin, no bad habits, super faith that went way beyond the norm for most Christians, super Christian discipline, and complete practical holiness. It should have occurred to me that if it takes all that to qualify a person to receive the power to accomplish that kind of super-righteousness and super faith, why do I need Holy Spirit baptism at all? If it takes all that just to qualify for it, then no one could get it – at least not without already having it! Yet when I went with the big kids to these stirring meetings of the Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship International, and to the teaching meetings where Bob Mumford, Derek Prince, Don Basham, and other Charismatic leaders were teaching, everyone seemed to have this Holy Spirit baptism. The “proof” was that they could all speak in tongues (their “heavenly prayer language, known only to God”), and they could “sing in the Spirit” supernaturally uttering not only the inspired words, but an inspired melody as well. Truly beautiful to see huge crowds of people rapt with joy, hands in the air, and filling the auditorium with the beautiful, eerie sound of a tonic major chord dominating a madrigal-style fugue woven beneath it. Magical. These folks appeared to be suspended between heaven and earth inwardly, completely lost in the Spirit, and I desperately longed for such wonderful intimacy with my God.

It would be another two decades before I sought after intimacy with God in the one place I should have been seeking it – His unchanging, infallible written Word. I’ll submit other articles later which will demonstrate how and why the charismata of the first century was intended by God only for a single generation and served the purpose God had ordained for it. Suffice it to say for now that the sign gifts of tongues, miracles, prophecy, supernatural knowledge, etc served as a covenant sign to the generation of Jews that rejected and murdered God’s Son. Once the judgement those signs signified had come and gone, so too did the covenant warnings of that judgement. But that’s for another post. This one is about how the Charismatic Movement (Pentecostalism with a new name and interdenominational distinctives) took me far from the simple, unchanging, effective, practical, loving fellowship of God and into a world of superstition, fear, manipulation, and betrayal.

Some of those “big kids” in the youth group who got involved in the Charismatic movement invited me along to the meetings, and I went as often as I could. We even brought our youth pastor into it. Later on even our pastor accepted the theology of “second blessing” and was eventually expelled by the church, after they had expelled all the kids who refused to stop going to those meetings. Yup, they kicked us all out. Rather than TEACH and PROVE from the Scriptures why our pursuit of spiritual gifts was WRONG, they chose to do the easy thing instead of the right thing. May God reward them according to their deeds. For if the elders of that little church had acted properly, they could have spared dozens of people years of heartache, deception, and even madness.

Elders, Pastors, Deacons, Parents:
If your church has some heretical or heterodox error sweeping God’s people up in it, don’t simply rid the church of the problem by chasing the sheep from the fold and leaving them to the wolves! The elders of that little church did as much damage by dismissing us as our false teachers did by deceiving us. When the children are in trouble, their parents and spiritual shepherds and guardians should defend them! Fight for them instead of abandoning them to the wolves!

From that abandonment followed further seduction, betrayal, and abuse. But the choice of the elders of little Calvary Presbyterian Church all those years ago became the doorway to danger.