“And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language. They were amazed and astonished, saying, ‘Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born?'” (Act 2:6-8)
Sometimes people will ask what our position is on speaking in other tongues, or do we even believe in speaking in tongues. The answer is simple – Of course, we do.
At the same time, I believe it is important to have a better understanding of how the gift of speaking in other tongues took place in the early Church.
Once we have a clearer picture of what the Bible actually teaches, then we can decide for ourselves what place speaking in tongues would apply in our time. In this study, I am not telling anyone what they need to believe. Each person can decide that for themselves.
This entry is an update on a study that I provided almost four years ago, entitled, ‘The Corinthian Dilemma – The Demise of a Church.’
As a beginning place, I would like to look back once again on …
The problems at Corinth
Why does it seem that the Corinthian Church had all these problems with speaking in tongues and other spiritual gifts, yet you see very little about these issues with other churches?
There were so many problems at work in the Corinthian Church that it would take too much effort to try to address them all. However, a primary concern was with the gifts of the Spirit. There is a reason for this. (Speaking in tongues simply means to speak in a foreign or in another language.)
The Christians in Corinth were in a particular situation that was unique to them. Less than 50 miles across the Corinthian Gulf was the city of Delphi. To the Greeks, Delphi was considered the center of the earth. There was a stone set in place that was called the navel of the earth.
Earlier myths include traditions that Pythia, or the Delphic oracle, already was the site of an important oracle in the pre-classical Greek world (as early as 1400 BCE) and, rededicated, served as the major site during classical times for the worship of the god Apollo after he slew Python, “a dragon” who lived there and protected the navel of the Earth. “Python” (derived from the verb pythein, “to rot”) is claimed by some to be the original name of the site in recognition of Python which Apollo defeated. – Wikepedia
Delphi had the Delphic oracle, which belonged to the Earth goddess, and was supposedly guarded by a serpent, Python. (Keep the serpent Pythonic spirit in view.)
At the Delphi temple, they practiced a pagan glossolalia or speaking in tongues, but not in any language that could be understood. This influence of the pagan glossolalia was strongly felt not only in Corinth but also in the entire Grecian world. (You can study this in most encyclopedias.)
The way the oracle worked was that a male prophet at the temple would receive a question from an inquirer. The question could be personal, or about government affairs, or whatever.
The inquirer would be brought into the presence of a young woman priestess of Apollo who was said to have a “pythonic spirit.” The young woman would speak in unintelligible utterances, often fall out in a frenzy, supposedly through the spirit of Apollo in her, and the prophet would interpret the message.
Paul encountered this Pythonic spirit in Philippi.
It happened that as we were going to the place of prayer, a slave-girl having a spirit of divination [puthõna] met us, who was bringing her masters much profit by fortune-telling.” (Act 16:16 NASB)
The Struggle with Delpha
It is important to understand that Paul never took away from a gifting from God about speaking in other languages. (And neither do we.)
The problem seemed to be that certain ones who had been to the Delphic priest were beginning to show up in the congregation, and very likely, even some of the priests and priestesses were entering.
The Christians would have been considered a threat to the Delphic oracle. In addition, the Corinthian believers may have felt like they were in competition with the Delphic oracles.
This was probably why Paul had to deal so much with the issue of speaking in tongues with the Corinthian church. You don’t find it in any of the other churches.
If you read the Corinthian letters with this background in mind, it will help you appreciate some of the things Paul is addressing. Listen carefully to the language:
Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware. You know that when you were pagans, you were led astray to the mute idols, however you were led.” (1Co12:1,2.)
From this, we can assume that perhaps some of the Corinthian believers had been led astray by taking part in the Delphic oracles. It was the spirit of divination that had led them astray. (Keep in view the term, ‘led astray’. We are going to see it again in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians.)
“Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, ‘Jesus is accursed’; and no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.” (1Co12:3)
Someone was speaking by an unknown spiritual power that declared Jesus was accursed. Paul’s contention was that the Holy Spirit would most certainly not say that Jesus is accursed.
There is a vast difference between Jesus being accursed and Jesus taking the curse of the Law upon Himself at the cross. But these false outbursts of prophecies were leading the people astray.
Now a crucial question.
Can a person confess the wrong Jesus?
For someone to truly make the confession that Jesus is Lord, would be an act of the Holy Spirit.
However, is it possible to confess a Jesus who is not the Jesus of the Bible? Is it possible to receive a spirit other than the Holy Spirit? Is it possible to speak in a tongue that is not of God? Is it possible to be led astray by a false gospel?
It was happening in Corinth. The people were being led astray from a true walk with the Lord, and it all centered on supposedly spiritual gifts, and false prophets, and a false gospel.
You must decide if that very thing can happen today –
Listen to Paul:
“But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.” (2Co11:3)
Remember the term, ‘led astray.’ There it is again. Paul used it in both letters. In this second letter, Paul is coming even more strongly against the people being led astray.
Notice the background of being led astray is still the ‘serpent.’ ‘Led astray’ is the Greek word, phtheiro, which means to corrupt or spoil. The corrupting is a spiritual deception.
This word is used in Rev19:2, where it says …
“He has judged the great harlot who was corrupting (phtheiro) the earth with her immorality, and He has avenged the blood of His bondservants on her.”
Now take note of how Paul shows how this corrupting influence can work in a Christian group. He said,
“For if one comes and preaches another Jesus who we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted you bear this beautifully” (2Co11:4)
The Corinthian group was coming under the influence of the occult. There is no other way to explain an involvement with a different Jesus, a different spirit, and a different gospel.
You may think this is hard to do, but Church history has proven that this has always been a real danger for believers.
Did the Church at Corinth ever revert itself? Who knows – We do have a promise that the Lord will not lose any that belong to Him.
Did not the apostle tell the Corinthians to examine themselves to make sure they were in the faith?
Time for a checkup
And here is where we need to use caution. Paul did not say that these elements of prophecy and speaking in other languages would be ‘destroyed.’
There is no question that the Lord can speak to us through others. But to go about seeking a prophet today can do much damage to a believer’s walk with the Lord.
I realize everyone has their own thoughts, opinions, and experiences. But in the study of Scriptures, it is important not to let our experiences decide what we believe. We must learn to be true to the Scriptures.
Everything I have shared in this entry is for educational purposes. My advice to believers today is to stay on guard against any form of occultism. Familiar (pythonic) spirits love to enter congregations and play off as being from the Lord.
Perhaps Paul gave us the best warning of all. Listen to it once again —
“But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.”
Note the keywords: Simplicity and purity of devotion.
Finally – I have two recommendations. I began this study with a quote from the second chapter of Acts. The whole of this chapter is often overlooked by some teachers that wish to make ‘speaking in other languages’ the lesson in place, at the expense of what is actually happening. Take time to read the entire chapter. You may be surprised.
Secondly – You must decide for yourself, if some of what is called speaking in tongues today fits the Bible description of tongues, or is it possibly more in line with the Delphic description.
Am I coming against all speaking in tongues today? Certainly not. So, once again, do we believe in speaking in tongues. Of course, we do.
My point – Don’t check your brain at the door.
But what do I know? I’m just an old-time, guitar playing, country preacher.
Here is a song you may like by Daniel O’Donnell and Mary Duff, titled, ‘Daddy Was an Old Time Preacher Man.
May the Lord’s blessings rest upon you and all that is yours,
In Christ always,