Thursday, October 13, 2005

"You Can't Speak In Tongues At Will!".

Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones brings a fresh perspective to consider.

I've been listening on and off to various sermons of the Doctor's and came across this fascinating one on the gift of tongues some time ago from his series on John 1:22, 33. I dismissed it then as the Doctor being over-cautious at charismatic excess. However a re-visit has actually made me think very seriously about the quite thrilling implications if we accept that his argument is true.

I've tried to re-present the context and logical progression of his argument with his conclusions and a few key quotes from him, along with some annotations of my own.


1. There are two aspects to the filling of the Holy Spirit:

- Continous (Ephesians) - Sanctification.
- Aorist Imperative (Acts Post-Pentecost) - A particular event for a particular occasion.

2. Dr Lloyd-Jones: "A man may receive this witness, this sealing, this baptism (of the Holy Spirit) with no such phenomena (the gifts of the Spirit)".

3. Dr Lloyd-Jones: "The dominant factor is the sovereignity of the Spirit".

Logical Progression of Arguement that One Cannot Speak in Tongues at Will:

1. On 1 Corinthians 14:18 - quoting Dr L-J:

"If it is true to say that a man can speak in tongues whenever he likes, what is the point of the apostle's statement? ("I thank my God I speak in tongues more than you all"). It would simply mean he decides to do so more frequently than they do".

2. 1 Corinthians 14:30 implies the same. A message is given to a prophet; he cannot speak at will in a prophetic manner.

3. Same with the gift of miracles. Acts 3 - the apostles passed the beggar at Gate Beautiful regularly but on one particular day they were given an aorist imperative commission and anointing to heal.

4. Same with exorcism. Acts 14, 16 - The demon possessed woman troubled the apostles for "many days" before the commission and anointing to exorcise her came.

A Warning from the Doctor:

"I am here to suggest that if a man tells me he can speak in tongues whenever he likes, it is probably something psychological and not spiritual".

So What? - Conclusions:

Does this viewpoint quench the Spirit? Does it dampen our charismatic zeal if we accept the truth of the Doctor's words? Is this a legalism on our charismatic freedom that we fought so hard for? Does this view deny the truths we have always held that tongues are our "prayer language" to God?


Rather to me it heightens the weight, depth and glory of the gift of tongues.

Consider Dr Lloyd-Jones' understanding of what truly happens when we truly speak in tongues:

"The apostle says; I think I know more than any of you what it is to be taken up by the Spirit ... the Spirit comes upon me more frequently than any of you".

If we apply the same logical principles to the gift of tongues that we subconciously do to the other gifts of the Holy Spirit, we will realise that the Spirit is eager and willing to come upon us to anoint us to speak in a heavenly prayer language, just as much as He is eager and willing to come upon us and for example speak to the gathered assembly through prophecy, or heal the sick, or drive out demons, or empower preaching through the word of faith. Dr Lloyd-Jones was not wanting to quench the Spirit by arguing away the freedom to speak in tongues whenever we like ... rather he was pointing out that when we truly speak in tongues we are being taken up by the Spirit ... the Spirit has come upon us.

Let us not fall into the trap of demanding our "rights" to speak in tongues whenever we like! God the Holy Spirit is not stingy! This is about pursuing a relationship with Him!! What would we rather ... speak in tongues whenever we like (that are 60% psychological or worse demonic) or devote our attention to pursuing a love relationship with the Spirit of God; "My dearest friend" (Mahesh Chavda) and crying out to Him that we need this prayer language to express the weight of love and affection that is on our hearts for God. Would the Spirit truly refuse a request like that and deny an anointing of tongues?

Here is the most concise, accurate and powerful summing up of Dr Lloyd-Jones' position on the gift of tongues. It is from his commentary on Romans 12.

"Now if speaking in tongues is something that people can do whenever they like, then I see no point whatsoever in that statement of the apostle ("I thank my God I speak in tongues more than you all") because all he is saying is that he decides to speak in tongues more frequently than anbody else.

But if he means that he finds himself taken up by the Spirit and speaking in tongues, if it is a kind of spiritual ecstasy into which he has been lifted - not something he decided to do, but something that has been given - then there is point in his claiming that he knows more about it, and does it more frequently thant anybody else.

And this applies to all the gifts, everyone of them. It applies to miracles, healings, tongues and prophecy. They are always given, always initiated by the Spirit".

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