letters to surfers

What do you think about charismatic manifestations like being slain in the spirit, holy laughter, shaking, speaking in tongues?

Answer by Robert Brow      February 2000   (www.brow.on.ca)

When Jesus met Paul on the Damascus Road "a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice" (Acts 9:3-4). So obviously there is nothing wrong with the experience of falling to the ground when the Holy Spirit reveals Jesus to us. But if Paul had gone on to look for that experience every week, he would never have gone on to engage in his work among the nations. And any attempt to manipulate people into falling to the ground is never of the Holy Spirit.

The Psalms tell us that "When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy" (Psalm 126:2). So it would be strange if we did not laugh and shout and sing when the Lord intervened miraculously in our lives. But to imagine that every service should be marked by uproarious laughter is certainly not taught in the New Testament.

There have been denominations like the Quakers and Shakers who at one time experienced trembling and shaking as the Holy Spirit worked mightily among them. So we should not be surprised if on occasion the power of the Holy Spirit produces such manifestations. But there again trying to reproduce this as evidence of the power of God is very unhelpful.

In the Old Testament there were two ways in which the prophets received their message. Some were called seers, and they would see a vision and then interpret its meaning to the people concerned. Others would begin speaking in words that they did not understand, and then as they prayed the message would become clear and they were able to explain it clearly. That is why Paul explains that people who speak in tongues should normally speak clearly so all can understand (1 Corinthians 14:13-17). The experience of tongues should normally move on to prophecy "for upbuilding and encouragement and consolation (1 Corinthians 14:3). There are some who have the experience of tongues in their private devotional life, and this helps them into prayer (Romans 8:26) and worship. But there are many ways of praying and having fellowship with God, and the Bible nowhere allows us to judge others by the experiences that we have been given to enjoy.

(See the Church: An Organic Picture of Its Life and Mission, 1968, Chapter 7)

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