This article was restored from the cults.org archives.
“as we were going to the place of prayer, we met a slave girl who had a spirit of divination … Paul, very much annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, ‘I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.'” (Acts 16:16-18)
Acts 16 is a deep Scipture – deceptively simple, but one of those scriptures we come across from time to time that is bursting with meaning beneath the surface. Paul was much annoyed with this girl who had a ‘spirit of divination’. Let’s look at those words. In Greek, she had a pneu’ma py’tho·na, or literally, “a spirit of python”. The NRSV Harper-Collins Study Bible notes of Acts 16:
“Spirit of divination, lit. ‘a spirit of the Python,’ which was associated with the Delphic oracle.”
The Python was a mythical beast which guarded the Oracle of Delphi, near Corinth. At the Oracle of Delphi, travellers would congregate to hear a prophecy of the future for themselves or their country. According to some historians, the Pythoness (priestess) would cry out in unintelligible sounds which were interpreted by another person to form ambiguous verses. To have a spirit of the Python would be to be like the Pythoness – it would be someone who was filled with the demonic spirit of the oracle… someone who would prophecy by crying out in unintelligible sounds!
And as such, there is scriptural evidence in Acts 16 for false tongues. That is not to say that all tongues are wrong. While Paul exorcised this slave girl in Acts from the spirit of the Python, he himself spoke in tongues, and was glad of the experience (1.Cor.14:18). What does it tell us? It tells us clearly that there can be false tongues in the world! As Paul also wrote:
“The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved” (2 Thess 2: 9-10).
What have we learned from the experience of the slave girl? When someone ‘speaks in tongues’ we cannot be sure that they have salvation, because tongues is not a solely Christian phenomenon. According to Professor Maja-Lisa Swartz of the Helsinki University, after her research of the Tanzanian tribes people, “speaking in tongues is nothing specific for the Christian religion. It appears in all religions and is no guarantee for what type of spirit it is that the speaker is speaking for”.
Back in Exodus, chapter 7, you will recall the story of Moses and Aaron’s rod. They were told by Yahweh to give the Pharoah a bit of a shock; they were meant to drop the rod in front of him and it would turn in to a snake. Though, it seems like Pharoah wasn’t very impressed. The record says that, “Pharoah summoned the wise men and sorcerers; and they also, the magicians of Egypt, did the same by their secret arts. Each one threw down his staff, and they became snakes”. So, through Satan, a lot of counterfeit miracles can be happening. Like with Moses’, the counterfeit miracle can look exactly like the real miracle. It’s the same with tongues – there are counterfeit tongues, so people just speaking in tongues is a bad evidence that they have God’s favour or salvation.
For example, John MacArthur writes, in Charismatic Chaos, “Ecstatic speech is a part of many pagan religions in Africa, East Africa. Tonga people of Africa, when a demon is exorcised, sing in Zulu even though they say they don’t know the Zulu language. Ecstatic speech is found today among Muslims, Eskimos, Tibetan monks. It is involved in parapsychological occult groups. Did you know that the Mormons, even Joseph Smith himself advocates speaking in tongues? It could be demonic.” An Encyclopædia of Occultism says, “Speaking and writing in foreign tongues, or in unintelligible outpourings mistaken for such, is a very old form of psychic phenomenon.”
Tongues are, therefore, a bad evidence of salvation. They can be demonic! Do you say that someone is ‘saved’ when they speak in tongues? It is a poor test, if even pagans speak in tongues. Are the Tonga people saved when they speak in tongues? Are the Voodoo people, or the Buhhdist monks saved when they speak in tongues? Call up your local Mormon stake, and grill the guy about tongues. You will see that he’s had exactly the same experience as you. Is he saved? Doubt it.
Tongues is clearly not God’s evidence of salvation. And yet, someone can know whether they are saved or not. In 1John 5:13, it is written:
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.
How do you know you have eternal life? John doesn’t mention tongues. If tongues were the sign that someone was saved, he would have metioned it there. But instead he says about those who know they have eternal life “you who believe in the name of the Son of God”!
- John 1:12 “to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God”.
- John 20:31 “these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through beleiving you may have life in his name”.
- Acts 10:43 “everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name”.
It’s funny – some of our articles we write about tongues get quite complicated, then Revival Centre people write replies that get even more complicated. But perhaps there is a time when we just have to meditate on the simplicity of God’s good news: Jesus died, was buried, but on the third day rose again – and “whoever believes in him has eternal life”. No tongues, no attending Revival Centre meetings, no payment required. “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” (2 Corinthians 11:3)
There is a common tactic used by salesmen, false religious teachers and the like, called ‘muddying the waters’. When they are met with a plain and simple error in their argument, like, “believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved” (Acts 16), they will throw some confusion into the picture. The Revival Centres do this by redefining what ‘believe’ means, and some hillarious pamphlets have been printed with titles like, “‘Believing’ is More than Believing”. We agree that believing is more than a mental assent – it means a heartfelt reliance and trust in Christ, a belief from our heart (Rom.8:9). But the Revival Centres say ‘believing’ means to agree to some set of religious teachings. Though, any reasonable person can see that ‘believing in Christ’ can’t be translated as ‘speaking in tongues’. For most people, though, there is just enough confusion as to what ‘believing in Christ’ means, that they will stay with the Revival Centres.
In fact, to believe in Christ means nothing more than putting faith in Christ. There is a classic illustration in Matthew 8, where the servant of a centurion was ill. Jesus promised to go and heal him, but the centurion, so sure of Jesus, replied, ‘but, surely, if you just spoke the word he would be healed right now’ (my paraphrase). Jesus was astonished and said, “Truly I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith”. Now, folks, that’s what faith is about. It’s not about following some doctrinal formulae – it’s about ‘relying on’, ‘trusting in’, God.
We see that the Greek word, pisteuo, is speaking primarily of entrusting yourself to Christ. That’s salvation. Now let’s make sure that we are entrusting ourselves to Christ and not a church, religious organisation or a doctrinal formula. We must entrust oneself first to the Lord, then his teachings. The Pharisees were rebuked by Jesus for holding the letter of the law above God himself,
“And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not. Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.” (John 5:38-40)
Salvation comes through believing in Christ. Don’t let anyone ‘muddy the waters’! It means believe in Jesus and you will be saved. So what about tongues? They’re fine, but like the miracle with Aaron’s rod, they can easily be faked. So, they are a bad proof that someone’s saved. When we put faith in physical things, like tongues, we are always open to deception. The answer is to put our faith in the spiritual: “for we walk by faith, not by sight”.
You may have been taken in by a false gospel. There’s nothing shameful about that, as false teachers are promised in these last days. But keep alert! Have you received “another Jesus … another spirit … another gospel”? You can repent of it now. The gospel is about Jesus, not about tongues (1Co.15:1-4; Ga 1:8,9). Accept that your salvation is through faith in Jesus alone, not through tongues or any work you can do (Eph.2:8). And, finally, ‘Come out of her, my people’!
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