Speaking in Tongues Debate - 15 - The Brazen Serpent

Chapter 15 

THE BRAZEN SERPENT

    Moses made the brazen serpent according to God's orders, and it was the means of salvation for thousands of people (Numbers 21:9). It was a gift from Heaven, the power of God for the salvation of those who believed in His Word. The Lord Jesus Christ used this image in His famous interview with Nicodemus, even making a parallel between his own person and work and the serpent, "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up..." (John 3:14). The Israelites kept this bronze serpent for centuries afterwards. But let us look at II Kings 18:4 to see what good King Hezekiah did with it, "He removed the high places and broke down the sacred pillars and cut down the Asherah. He broke into pieces the bronze serpent Moses had made, for until those days the sons of Israel burned incense to it." This serpent had become a stumbling block for Israel. And yet it was the same one that existed in the days of Moses. It was neither a replica, nor an imitation of the true one.  It was the true one-the exact same one. The initial act of looking at it had been embellished with the passing of time. Now, the Israelites were even offering the incense which was reserved for the Lord alone. Under the guise of worshipping God it ended up becoming an idol, taking the place of God himself. We can be sure that the person who denounced the outdated and reproachable practice of looking at the serpent did not have the unanimous approval of those around him. Partisans of the bronze serpent could have justified their faith by advancing historical and biblical proofs, not to mention those based on experience. Or they could have pleaded that God who had commanded the Israelites to look at the serpent had not changed, that he remained the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8), that the experience which had taken place in the desert could also happen in their time, that the power of God had not changed and moreover, that not one word was said about the end of the serpent's use and effectiveness.

A Relic

    Actually, the spiritual practices which pivoted on this relic became an abomination in the eyes of the Lord. For many, the gift of tongues is also a relic which they defend and carry in their hearts. They cherish it, talk about it all the time, and give it their unlimited devotion, since it was God who gave this gift... but God also gave the bronze serpent for a specific reason for a specific time. Beyond that time it became obsolete, like medicine which becomes dangerous if kept after its expiration date. Healing is transformed into infection. This is just what happened with the bronze serpent. The Israelites' spiritual life had become infected. When the serpent was removed by Hezekiah, many thought their religious life would fall apart. They had nothing tangible to hang onto. I can understand why some people hold on to the gift of tongues, with a sort of frenzy. It is because their spiritual life is so weak that, if they lost this gift, there would be nothing left. Their inner life is almost entirely based on this external manifestation, and if it were taken away, their spiritual life would collapse. They cannot get along without it. Their life would lose all sense of direction. Without the gift of tongues they would be like drug addicts without their drugs, going through unbearable withdrawal pains.

Bad Faith

    I have met such people. One day I met a pastor, an extremist, advocate of the gift of tongues, who tried to convince me that it was an experience that every man had to have. His "bronze serpent" was for everyone and for all times. I opened my Bible with him and asked him to read verses 29 and 30 of I Corinthians chapter 12.

    "Are all apostles?"

    "No, of course not", he replied.

    "Are all prophets?"

    "No."

    "Are all teachers?"

    "No."

    When we came to the next verse he refused to answer or read any further. He could very well see where this text would lead him. Had I asked, "Do all speak in tongues?" the answer would necessarily have been, "No". I tried to take him back to this passage three times, and three times he refused to go all the way to the end. He left me there, quite angrily. From then on he considered me a "persona no grata". When you tear down high places like Gideon did, you have to expect violent reactions, and the loss of friends.

Ecstasies

    Having come this far, we must now demystify certain practices, or experiences, which are unconsciously taking many people away from the Scriptures. Here is the testimony given by the parents of a young, truly born-again Christian. When their son spent time in his room before God with the gift of tongues, they noticed that something happened. When he came downstairs, he was a bit like Moses when he came down from the mountain completely transfigured by the presence of God. Irrefutable and very convincing, don't you think? It certainly appears that way. But to come to that conclusion, you have to ignore what we have said about speaking in tongues. You must put aside the fact that it was not a sign for believers, that the practice of this gift was not given to everyone, that it is nowhere written that a person should practice it in private, not to mention the simple fact that this gift is no longer needed. Here you have at least three violations of the Scriptures, not counting all the others which I cannot reiterate without repeating all that has been said before. All those who are impressed by such experiences do not realize that they are overstepping the Scriptures. They are being completely subjective. Eastern religions offer as much, if not more. Those who have had the privilege of reading Fifty Years in the Church of Rome, the autobiography of Father Chiniquy, a Canadian priest who was converted after fifty years in the Roman Church, would do well to reread it. He says in this book that when he was a priest, his most blessed and exalting moments were spent in adoration before the Host. That was where he touched the Sublime. He was transported, lifted up and transfigured by it. After his conversion, he saw this sublime experience, linked with the doctrine of transubstantiation, to be the abomination it is. And yet, what elevation of the soul, what exaltation, what a testimony!

False Exaltation

    I remember going to a camp in France when I was a new Christian. Under the sincere pretext of evangelizing the neighboring town, a friend and I took off for an afternoon without permission from the camp officials. In the name of Jesus Christ we had quite an escapade-harmless but glorious. We thought we had really done something fantastic. When we came back to camp we were as radiant and light-footed as if we were walking on clouds. The camp director, a mature Christian, didn't understand at all. We felt justified by our bliss. It was real-life experience. We were sure of ourselves and of our experience, but its exaltation did not last. There is one thing I can see now. It didn't take long for me to recognize this experience by its true name. Rather than ecstasy, revelation, or some other height of spirituality, it was nothing more than auto-suggestion. The truth remains that God prefers obedience to sacrifice (I Sam 15:22), and that the prophet's spirit is subject to the prophet's control (I Cor 14:31). Experiences which exalt the soul do not say much to me, even when it is the bronze serpent of the Bible that inspires them. Since when are religious intensity and emotion a sign of truth and spirituality? In Ezekiel 8:14 we find that the women at the gates of the temple in Jerusalem were in such deep devotion that tears came to their eyes. But it was an abominable idol named Tammuz which had provoked their state of ecstasy. There is no doubt that these women had a good feeling, a sort of inner freedom, but there is no doubt either that God called this experience a great abomination. Still today when so many psychic experiences are taking the place of simple faith in the Word of God, we must cry out with the prophets of old, "To the Law and to the testimony!" (Is 8:20). I admit that there is a certain intoxication with the Holy Spirit. The experience of being filled with the Spirit is not foreign to me. I have known such moments and would never deny them. But I have also tested all things and held onto that which is good. As far as the rest is concerned, I have rejected it. All of this was very difficult for me, especially since I too, like the Apostle Peter, could claim my own Pentecost.

Humiliating Surrender

    All I had believed, all that I had fought for and all I had hung on to was sinking-and taking me with it. That hurt. But what was even more painful, was admitting that someone else was right. In reality it was my EGO, my Pride, that was being sorely beaten. Having believed for years that I had received more than others, I had a smug little feeling of superiority. It was not easy to recognize that those I had looked down on knew more about the matter than I did and that they were on more solid ground than I. It was like breaking a horse. I thought I could buck off the cowboy on my back, but instead of throwing him off, I was broken in. It was a rodeo where I had little chance of winning. The Bible passages that I had slid over so easily now turned against me and pricked me like spurs. And what's worse, when I called for help from those on my side, they had no theological basis to defend their side of the question. Everything was built upon experiences, without any mention of the negative experiences which were just short of blasphemy and imposture.

The Other Guy's Fault

    When I timidly ventured to point out these things, I was invariably told that it was others who were the phonies. "Others" referred to other denominations, other Pentecostal churches, but never their own church. It was the church across town or down the street. For the Swedish Covenant assemblies, it was the Gypsies who falsified everything. For the Assemblies of God, it was the Charismatics who smelled of sulfur--or the Brahamists, the Four Square, the Full Gospel, the Holy Rollers, the Revival movement, etc. Though all of these groups originated from the same spiritual branch, they could not guarantee the authenticity of anyone but themselves. And not even all of them were sure of that, for several admitted that they were worried because the occultist felt at ease in their church whereas he avoided the other ones. When you know that occultists are accustomed to speaking in tongues, you have good reason to be troubled. But whether it be occult or not, it is still all a matter of experience.

    I personally heard the president of an occult group in France say, "In our circles we speak in tongues, and they are contemporary languages." But what he added made me shudder "... It is not like the Pentecostals." So, this famous occultist prided himself on having an authentic gift of speaking in tongues, while the Pentecostal movement could hardly claim such a record of authenticity.

    What can we say in the face of this example of authenticity, inspired by the father of lies, and disguised in terms as evangelical as the extraordinary words of the young woman of Acts 16 mentioned earlier? What can we say, but that Hell itself is hidden behind this apparent orthodoxy? The Enemy knows very well how to manipulate the railroad switches of our lives. He has always wanted to put God's people on a dead-end track. He is the great expert at camouflage, using a few fragmented Bible passages and so-called spiritual experiences to make the track seem true and relevant.

    From the many misleading ways, I pick out one that best illustrates the subtlety of him who disguises himself as an angel of light (II Cor 11:14). A certain magazine dedicated to "experience" tells how a French pastor, not knowing one word of Hebrew, began to speak in this language by the Spirit and was understood by a fellow worker. How many applauded the biblical orthodoxy of this gift! My astonishment does not come from the phenomenon itself which appears to me to be as authentic as the miracles of Lourdes, or to be as evangelical as the surprising words of the possessed damsel of Acts 16.

    No, my surprise comes from the following commentary which I now quote, "...this seems to present all the needed guarantees (of biblical authenticity)." It amazed me all the more for we have here an example of counterfeit sewn together with such coarse white thread that it is very easy to expose the imposture.
 

First of all, the gift was recognized and understood by a believer convinced of the universality of the salvation offer. The sign did not teach him a thing. He was in contradiction with the Holy Spirit Who precisely says that this sign is for the non-believer (I Cor 14:22).
 
Secondly, the gift of tongues, as practiced and taught in the New Testament, was anything but Hebrew. As a matter of fact, the tongues spoken by the Spirit are cited as foreign tongues or barbarian (other than Hebrew) tongues (I Cor 14:11). Now then, who were the foreigners and the strangers? There is only one possible answer: the non-Jews. The tongues are, without exception, in contrast to the Hebrew tongue.
    No Gentile needed to be convinced that the Jews could have access to the presence of God, since it was these same Jews who brought them salvation on God's behalf. The sign of tongues was given so that the Jews might understand that salvation was henceforth open to the Gentiles and never the opposite.
    To have a Gentile (or a Frenchman) speak in Hebrew would be to reverse the divine order, as if, for instance, to give Peter's vision to the Gentile Cornelius. Now Cornelius, receiving the message of salvation from Peter's mouth, had absolutely no need to learn that Peter could be saved just like he was. It would have been complete nonsense. Or could we imagine for an instant that we would need a linguistic miracle in the "langue d'oc" (old language of southern France) or in the "langue d'oil" (old language of northern France) to convince an Englishman that the French have a right to French nationality?

    This is, however, what the above article seriously relates, that is to say, that the gift of tongues in Hebrew given to this French Christian reveals to him that the Jews have, as much as he does, the right to their God!

    With the help of certain commentator's naivety, the Enemy shuffles the cards to his liking. He has no trouble achieving his purpose which is to sow confusion and discord among God's people, and in that way, to prepare the coming of the Great Babylon, whose name also means confusion!

    When the Dalai-Lama recently visited France, the newspapers all carried the story about His Holiness' memory of a particular incident which took place when he was yet a child. Though no one ever taught him and though he lived in a distant province, he was able to speak the dialect of the capital, Lhasa. This example of speaking in tongues was real, verifiable and contemporary. No one would even think of questioning its authenticity. But what spirit enabled the Dalai-Lama to speak in tongues? I will let you answer for yourselves.

If there were no Banknotes, there would be no Reason to Counterfeit

    One of my dearest friends is the pastor of a Revival church. I greatly appreciate this man's spiritual and moral qualities. Like many others he says about speaking in tongues that "it would be of no use to counterfeit banknotes if there were no true ones." He realizes that there is a lot of counterfeiting in connection with this gift, but in his mind, it is the true gift that is practiced in his own church. What he does not realize is that even in his own church he is completely duped. The experience that he insists on reproducing-though he does not manage to do so every time-is simply a handful of outdated bills which are no longer valid, having been retired from circulation centuries ago. He pretends that he is reproducing what was practiced in the early Church, but his Practice is far from being biblical.

    Notice instead:

    First, in his church 99% of the speaking in tongues consists of messages addressed to men. That already makes 99% of this Practice false since the Holy Spirit says that he who speaks in tongues does not speak to men (I Cor 14:2).

    Next, the remaining 1% is addressed to believers, which is one hundred percent contrary to the Holy Spirit Who teaches the very opposite (I Cor 14:22).

    Finally, all this does not fulfill a biblical Purpose because it does not convince unbelieving Jews, for whom the speaking in tongues was designed.

    More than that, armed with a tape recorder, I went to see one of the members of his church who, according to the pastor, had the gift of interpretation of tongues, and in whom he had full confidence. I played for him a recording of  "tongues" spoken earlier and asked him to interpret again what he had heard previously and had interpreted on that occasion. Alas! the second interpretation was as different from the first one as the Rhone River is different from the Rhine, and which, in fact, flows in the opposite direction! The contradiction between the two interpretations was very evident. I pushed the verification further. A Scottish brother had recorded for me the Lord's Prayer in his native broad Scott's accent. The interpretation given did not resemble in any way the prayer of our Lord.

    In fact, his printing plate was so crude that any counterfeiter would reject it hands down. But he loves his counterfeit banknotes and holds on to them because he believes them to be authentic, the only real ones among false ones. That causes smiles, but sad smiles. But, in addition to the sad smile and his false printing plates, I still hold a friendly and brotherly attitude toward him, which he deserves.

    The Bible warns us against the temptation to live by sight, by miracles, signs and experiences. Those who travel this dangerous route will be easy prey for the Antichrist who comes with all sorts of miracles, signs and lying wonders, and with wicked deception (II Thess 2:9, 10). The satanic spirit is already at work today and his way seems to be well prepared in the hearts of those who, even though they name the name of Christ, put themselves in a position leaning toward the Antichrist. When the fruit is ripe, it will fall of itself. The Adversary will have only to take it for himself without effort or opposition.