God commands believers to not forbid speaking in tongues (I Corinthians 14:39), but He also commands them not to believe every spirit but to put them to the test to see whether they are of God or not (1 John 4). The spiritual gift 'distinguishing of spirits' is one of the least sought after, and least preached about spiritual gifts, that is very seldom mentioned let alone practised. However this gift is vital for any Spiritual church's day to day life - as the Apostle John tells us many false spirits NOT of God have gone into the world. Note also that testing the spirits in the Biblical sense is completely differant to 'blaspheming against the Holy Spirit' which is a commonly given reason for not testing spiritual gifts. However, it is one thing to accuse a person or spirit they operate by the power of Beelzebub (without scripturally testing them), and quite another to test and see if the spirit acknowledges Christ or not as per the test in 1 John 4 before one makes any accusation.
After fifty-five years of ministry, A.E. Ruark believed around 90% of all tongues manifestations that he tested were false. He believed there was a true gift of tongues so he was not against spiritual gifts. However he realised that for every spiritual gift there was an anti-gift - a false gift that is antichrist. He claimed that tongues was one of the most frequent entry points for Satan in his attack upon Christian people (as they do not know what they are saying and rarely discern it or interpret it properly) and that their fear, or reluctance, to test the spirits was a major strategy Satan used to avoid being uncovered.
The test he suggested of a tongues spirit should be made when someone is speaking in tongues. The one who does the testing should address, not the human being, but the spirit, in this manner, "Spirit, in the name of Jesus Christ, answer, is Jesus Christ come in the flesh?" A demon is most reluctant to answer this question. It will refuse to answer that question, will give an evasive answer, or say "no" in English with the person's voice.
"The tongues speaker must agree that the spirit of the tongue may answer in English, and that he himself will not give the answers, but will as it were "sit back", and allow the spirit controlling his vocal organs to give the answers, while he simply listens. Then we are testing the spirit of the tongue directly, and will prove whether this spirit is of God or of the devil."
Gerald E. McGraw said that the Holy Spirit promptly, freely and consistently confesses Christ. A demon will give one or several answers that betray his real identity, or he will stubbornly evade the question, in itself a refusal to confess. A demon may give a number of favorable answers, for he hopes to preserve his hold on the victim, but persistence and faith will soon unveil his actual identity, name and purpose.
W.L. McLeod, the pastor in whose church the Canadian Revival began, said,'On a number of occasions I have been asked by tongues speakers to test their gift. I have found some that were entirely a self thing, and some that had demonic overtones, but I cannot deny that some were as genuine as any Scriptural test could make them. The test I applied was simple. I would kneel with the person and ask them to exercise the gift. . . . When they go into this other tongue, I then address the spirit controlling their tongue and ask it, on the authority of 1 John 4:1-3 to confess in the English language that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. I think of one such case where the reply was given in perfect English, loud and clear, "Yes, yes, Jesus Christ is the Son of God and He came in the flesh." The person was so overcome afterwards by the manifestation of the power of God, that she was unable for a few moments to rise from her knees…. . . There are probably as many genuine cases as there are phony ones.'
Gerald McGraw claimed that many religious spirits would be deceptive, and call themself 'Jesus' (albeit another Jesus). 'During a deliverance session, we encountered a spirit named Jesus. He hated the Lord Jesus Christ. I was suspicious because past experience had revealed that tongues demons often deceptively adopt the name Jesus. Upon my inquiry the demon admitted he was the spirit giving her her gift of tongues, rather than the Holy Spirit.' Some apparently even claim to be the Holy Spirit til revealed to be otherwise.
Strong Christians can be invaded by a tongues demon, therefore anyone with a gift of tongues should make certain the gift was not a satanic counterfeit, since missionaries have reported hearing tongues speakers blaspheming in the language they had used on the mission field. Tongues should be tested….At that time McGraw had never tested any tongues, nor had his colleagues. But soon someone asked for a test…. she was 'an outstanding Christian lady - capable, talented, balanced, dependable, a soulwinner. She said she never used her tongue except in private. As she related her spiritual experience to my wife and me I just could not imagine that this fine believer could have a tongues demon. I told her so….Upon testing we found a tongue quite manifestly of the Holy Spirit. But soon another tongue appeared in the same woman- a tongue that was bitter and hateful toward Christ, toward her and toward us. The true tongue was clear evidence to me that her sanctification was genuine. Yet it was undeniable that a demonic tongues spirit inhabited her.'
'Others who have had tongues tests are utterly sincere and deeply spiritual people. The lives of several show marked evidence of conversion, spiritual hunger and growth. I do not believe that a tongues demon can sever a person from Christ's love. I have no doubt that many in the charismatic movement are earnest Christians, with more zeal and love than their anticharismatic critics. Yet my experiences of testing make me suspect that multitudes of tongues enthusiasts are deluded.'
There is seemingly slight ground that can admit a tongues demon, particularly where an unscriptural view is entertained…. God will never give a stone if we ask Him for the good gift of His Spirit (Luke 11:11-13), but experiences of many demonstrate that unscriptural views on tongues are frequently sufficient provocation for Satan to give an unsuspecting victim stones and scorpions of false tongues at the same time. God offers no automatic protection to the unwary. One middle-aged lady visited only one charismatic meeting. When a saintly looking elderly man there urged, "Just yield your tongue," she did. She received nine different demonic spirits who all professed to provide her with tongues gifts.
Tongues are no plaything. A properly tested tongue can provide a channel of spiritual enrichment to a Christian and to a congregation. But it appears much of the current wave of tongues-speaking is satanic delusion.'
Edited excerpts from 'Distinguishing Between True and False Utterances' by K. Neill Foster.
Alexander Seibel of Germany was a pentecostal of good standing. His friend was a missionary in India and on a visit in Germany. They shared missionary experiences and decided to pray. While Alexander was praying in tongues the missionary jumped up and demanded Alex to stop speaking as he was saying, in a known Indian dialect, the most horrible blasphemy words against God. There are many other similar occurences. Tongues must be tested. Note I do not say all tongues are false, I say some are.
K. Neill Foster continues -
'Can it be claimed as certain assurance that those who insist upon a tongues experience contrary to scriptures will never get a stone or serpent?If this scripture can be used in this way, why then the manifestation of false gifts on every side? For example, I know personally a former preacher who finally discovered his gifts were not of God. I was in the counselling room when he was converted. During his Bible college days I had occasional contact with him. He began working in what would be called a non-charismatic evangelical denomination. He left to pastor a Pentecostal church because of his speaking in tongues and also other "gifts" such as the ability to identify the sins of the people in the congregation. At the same time his marriage deteriorated. He finally left the ministry. In his case there were also frequent outbursts of obscenity and later abject backsliding.
Finally in desperation he came to his former friends, so-called non-charismatic pastors. In a deliverance which lasted several hours these pastors drove out eight demons, many of them naming themselves as false gifts, several of them speaking in tongues.
One brother who has tested tongues for forty years says that in his experience nine out of ten were false.
In a recently published article one of our contemporaries cites a similar statistic: Ninety percent of the tongues he and his colleagues have tested have been false. In my own experience perhaps eighty percent of the tongues manifestations that I have had to deal with have been false.
Still I doubt that the statistics tell the whole story. Because people with genuine gifts and healthy spiritual life do not come for counselling nearly so frequently. But there is no denying that the devil has been having a field day among charismatics. His penetration, whatever the percentage, appears to be massive.
But to face the issue of false gifts, stones and serpents, the open door to satanic penetration is in the merging of the work of the Holy Spirit which is for all with a spiritual gift that is given only to some as God wills. The resulting confusion is very often tragic.
A teenager was subjected to the overtures of a radical charismatic group, a group which in turn would certainly be rejected by mainline groups of Pentecostals. He allowed hands to be laid on him and "saw" a bright light. Later in a "Canadian revival" atmosphere, as distinct from "charismatic" atmosphere, the youth felt a bondage he could not escape until he made a verbal commitment much like this, "In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ I now refuse, repudiate and renounce completely any and all spirits of false prophecy from _____ (naming the false prophet). And I send them to the abyss in Jesus' name." He was instantly liberated and sensed within that the "charismatic" bondage had been broken.
On one occasion a pastor friend came to me asking for assistance. He had two young fellows preaching in his church, one of whom he knew spoke in tongues, and he was uneasy about their ministry. He wanted the test to be applied….We applied the test to both, but we were unsatisfied with the results. It appeared that the fellows spoke in tongues, switched off the manifestation to answer positively to the question, "Did Jesus Christ come in the flesh?" and then shifted back into their tongues. I realize now that we found out only if the fellows believed that Jesus Christ came in the flesh. We did not succeed in trying the spirits at all. But the experience was not wasted; we learned what not to do.
The manifestation must be allowed unhindered and uninterrupted expression while the test is being made, and no effort must be made by the person involved to supply the "right" answer.
The repetition of the question, "You spirit now manifesting, is Jesus Christ come in the flesh?" may be important. I have come to expect a spontaneous affirmative answer when the tongues manifestation is genuinely of the Holy Spirit, especially when the test question is put several times.
If the enemy is involved, repetitious questioning (like repetitious commanding, Mark 5:8, Amplified New Testament) will often shake the enemy loose and provoke abrasive or antagonistic reactions - and of course clarify the case.
Sometimes the spirit may respond with a positive answer that is at the same time equivocative and/or evasive. For example, a spirit might respond, "Of course I believe in Jesus." But which Jesus is not specified. If there is any hint of subterfuge, stick to the biblical test. Repeat it. Enlarge upon it by requiring answers to such questions as these: Is Jesus Christ Lord? Is Jesus Christ anathema? Does all the fullness of the Godhead dwell bodily in Jesus Christ? This procedure is likely to clarify the issue fully.
In 1 John 4:2 and 3 the verb forms used indicate that every spirit that continually and genuinely confesses that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God. Therefore reluctant admissions or occasional positive declarations that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh are not sufficient. The confession must be continual. A superficial understanding of this principle can short circuit the whole procedure of testing.
(Demons can and do lie. Thus, the words continually and genuinely in the paragraph above are of utmost importance. Also, as we have just noted, the Greek verbs used in 1 Corinthians 12:3 and 1 John 4:2 and 3 do come down strongly on the continuous idea.)
Illustrations of deceitful positive affirmations are not hard to come by. In the Dominican Republic I met a Christian woman who habitually twitched and shuddered in prayer meetings. She had a tongues manifestation which seemed to take over when she wanted to praise the Lord. But when the manifestation was confronted, the confession of Jesus Christ, though positive, was accented, even faintly humorous or mocking, and in English which the woman definitely did not know. I believe in retrospect that it was a false confession.
A friend who wrote to me during the writing of this book related an incident where invading spirits named one of their co-inhabitors, "Jesus." So of course they all knew and loved "Jesus." The spirits had to be confronted with "which Jesus?"
Another friend added yet another illustration. In the process of a deliverance a spirit claiming to be the Holy Spirit manifested itself in the victim. All tests were applied with positive results. When my friend returned home from a trip, he found his colleagues persuaded that the Holy Spirit indeed had taken control of the person. All he had to follow was a discerning witness that something was wrong. He initiated a confrontation and the phony "Holy Spirit" was uncovered.
Thus, as we have said elsewhere in these pages, there are four possibilities with spirit-testing: (1) a positive affirmation which is genuine and continual, (2) a positive affirmation which is not continual but is intended to deceive, (3) a denial, and (4) silence. 1 John 4:2 and 3 lays a four-sided trap for the enemy, and the Christian worker must know where the biblical lines are drawn.
If a pastor observes doubtful manifestations in his congregation, as a shepherd of the flock, I feel personally he has every right to ask to be permitted to test the manifestation. But he should be ready for the fireworks and to proceed with exorcism in the event of false manifestations. He should also be prepared to instruct the inquiring person if the manifestation proves fleshly. If the person himself is creating the "tongue" and no spiritual manifestation is involved, it may be judged fleshly.
Also, before the test is applied, one should prepare the person involved for the possibility that there has been deception. To admit that one has been deceived is a very high hurdle indeed. Terminology is important. Use the full title of the Lord Jesus Christ, because there are many antichrists in the world. At one of our conventions a sister who was in the process of being delivered was taken by a spirit which said repeatedly, "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus." Unfortunately the "Jesus" was not the Lord Jesus Christ. The spirit was dislodged in His name.'
From 'A Third View of Tongues' by K. Neill Foster