In the believer’s life, the Holy Spirit manifests in several specific ways. First of all, He gives the believer a new life, the ministry of regeneration. Secondly, He works in the believer’s life to conform him to the image of Christ, the ministry of sanctification. Thirdly, He becomes the surety of the believer’s salvation, the ministry of security. Finally, He will raise the believer from the dead as He raised Christ from the dead, the ministry of glorification.
Lord Jesus condemned the leaders of Israel for attributing the works of the Holy Spirit to Satan, and in the present times, some Christian movements attribute the works of the devil to the Holy Spirit. There is a big misrepresentation of the person and the works of the Holy Spirit which is in fact an insult to Him.
The denial of the works of the Holy Spirit
Even though the scripture clearly reveals the works of the Holy Spirit in the believers’ life, ironically, the Pentecostal movement denies these doctrines. Bible clearly teaches that we received the new life from above while we were dead in our sins. It’s a complete work of God, and we had no part in that divine miracle. Birth happens to us, and not by us. We didn’t contribute anything to our first birth, and we don’t contribute anything to our second birth either. The moment we believe, the moment regeneration happens, the Holy Spirit is deposited in us. There is no need to wait or plead for the Holy Spirit.
The Pentecostal/Charismatic movement denies what the Bible expressly teaches. Their theology has two doctrines related to this issue: separability and subsequence. Separability teaches that regeneration and baptism in the Spirit are two distinct mighty acts of God. Regeneration is the Spirit’s work to remove the unbelievers’ old nature and to implant a new nature. Subsequence is the doctrine that baptism in the Spirit takes place subsequently to regeneration, and it is a synergistic work, the sinner has to cooperate with the Holy Spirit to seek Him. According to them, the speaking in tongues is the initial evidence of this second blessings. This teaching implies that there are no Christians who are regenerated by the Spirit, who are not baptized in the Spirit, and if you don’t speak in tongues, you haven’t received the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
The Pentecostal movement has little interest in the internal work of the Holy Spirit, and their exclusive interest is in the external phenomena that they attached to the Holy Spirit. Falling, slain in the Spirit, hearing voices, barking like dogs, making animal noises, laughing uncontrollably, health, wealth and prosperity have nothing to do with the Holy Spirit, and their teaching is loaded with many perversion, completely misrepresenting the true teaching in the scripture. Yet, it is the fastest-growing religious denomination in the world today (Pew Research Center).
Scripture tells us that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth for the redemption of its curse (Romans 8:19-22). And, not only that, we also groan for the redemption of our bodies (v23). Now, watch this..,
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”
– Romans 8:26-27
This text is one of the great biblical treasures of the believer. It describes the means by which the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness and help secure our inheritance. But, this is also one of the most abused and perverted text by the Charismatic movement. This is one major text that’s been quoted by the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement to argue that the speaking in tongues as the initial evidence of a true believer. Their teaching is utterly foreign to the true meaning of this text.
Is this really talking about speaking in tongues?
The answer to this controversial question is stated simply and plainly in the text itself. You do not need to read into the text; you simply no need to stretch and twist the scripture and force Romans 8:26–27 to say more than it does.
Let’s look at this in four aspects:
- Who does the groaning?
- The Terminology of Tongues: Glossolalia Vs Xenoglossy
- Tongues Vs groaning without words
The primary theme running through the Book of Romans is the revelation of God’s righteousness in His plan for salvation, what the Bible calls the gospel. The theme of this chapter is “life in the Spirit” and there is nothing about speaking in tongues. Chapter 8 talks about the eternal security of the believer. The beginning and end of the chapter help us understand the context and content of the rest of the other verses. Paul starts by saying there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. And, it ends with the fact that we also cannot be separated from His love.
Who does the groaning? The believer or the Holy Spirit?
V26 is very straight forward. “In the same way, the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words”. There is no riddle here in this text. The v27 starts, ‘In the same way’. What ‘same way’? In the same way that the ‘CREATION’ groan in v22, in the same way, ‘WE’ groan in v23. Now, who is groaning in the v26? it is “SPIRIT himself intercedes for us through wordless groans”. The Greek Word πνεῦμα (pneuma) in this context is translated as the Holy Spirit (or the Spirit of God). V27 further says, “He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God”. It is the Spirit’s groaning, the groanings were the intercessory work of the Spirit.
The Terminology of Tongues: Glossolalia Vs Xenoglossia
The word tongues simply means languages. Modern commentators use two terms to describe this phenomenon precisely: glossolalia and xenoglossia (or xenolalia). Glossolalia refers to ecstatic, unintelligible speech. Xenoglossy refers to the speaking of a foreign language that one has not learned. The original gift of tongues was the divine power to preach the gospel fluently in a language that the speaker had never learned or known in any way. That is xenoglossia or xenoglossy. Speaking in tongues is only mentioned in two portions in Scripture: the Book of Acts and 1 Corinthians, and these were known languages, xenolalia and not gibberish. The phenomena observed today by the Charismatics is an “ecstatic, unintelligible speech” called “glossolalia”. It is gibberish. It was not ‘xenolalia’ that occurred in the New testament.
Tongues Vs groaning without words
How does the Holy Spirit intercede, with words or without words? The answer, “The Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans”. It is not gibberish and tongues. it is neither glossolalia nor xenolalia. Languages have words. We express language by speaking! The groaning in this text is the exact opposite of tongues. They are “wordless” and not a language, and thus no sound is being made here. The Greek word ἀλάλητος (alalétos) means unutterable, that is, which cannot be expressed in articulate language.The Holy Spirit understands our flesh and our weakness. Because of our human limitations, there will be times we simply do not know how to pray in compliance with the will of God, so the Holy Spirit intercedes in our prayers, not with words, but with His own groans. It is inter-Trinitarian, wordless communication that transcends any language.
Today’s ‘speaking in tongues’ is glossolalia. There is overwhelming evidence from many studies and science that modern glossolalia is a learned social behavior that produces meaningless gibberish. This is not the gift of New Testament times. The true miraculous gift or sign described in the Bible is xenoglossia. “Seeking for gifts is an invitation to demons to try and counterfeit the real” (William McLeod). Paul’s warning on the futility of meaningless gibberish is as likely to fall on deaf ears now as it did two thousand years ago.