If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
(1 Corinthians 13:1 ESV)
It may be inferred from our text that certain believers at Corinth believed that speaking with tongues was (is) the hallmark of true spirituality. Paul erases this notion without forbidding or disparaging tongues. He points to the fact that without the love of Christ, speaking with tongues will annoy people as fast as banging a gong in their ears.
In the early 1900s, Classical Pentecostalism became a sect within Christianity teaching that speaking in tongues is "the initial physical evidence" of receiving the Holy Spirit. The fact that a case can certainly be made for this from the book of Acts is beside the point. Over the next 100+ years this "initial evidence" doctrine has been reduced to any kind of ecstatic utterance or gibberish that may come from a person's mouth — regardless of whether or not the person's life was radically changed by the event. Couple this with the shallow conversion experiences that have come into vogue along a parallel line, and we live in an age where there are people who " speak with tongues " who may never have truly been saved — much less received the Spirit. It may be a radical thing to say, but many people believe they are spiritual and have at no time been born again.
The Simon Generation
“And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money.” (Acts 8:18 KJV)
Around 50-60 years ago "moving in the supernatural" became so popular, that by the time we reached the 1980s and 1990s certain well-liked Pentecostal and Charismatic leaders were practically flaunting what they termed as "the power of God." Knocking people down with their coat or their breath were common occurrences. This enticed several generations to desire that type of power — in a similar way that many young men desired to be great athletes. There were even books written and sold to teach people how to get what was termed "the anointing." The royalties from some of these books made the authors richer than Simon the Sorcerer could have ever hoped to become. For those who read the books but still fell short, they just tripped folks to get them on the ground — simulating being "slain in the spirit."
The full-Gospel movement (especially on TV) drifted into a murky mess that skewed and twisted hundreds of thousands — if not millions of peoples understanding of true spirituality. Like Simon the Sorcerer, the unsuspecting saw what appeared to be the power of God and lusted for it. From that time until now multitudes of people have their mind fixed on the lie that the supernatural is evidence that they are spiritual and there is no real sign that this delusion is being overthrown.
But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. (Acts 8:20–22 KJV)
Peter called Simon the Sorcerer's misguided desire for the power of God, "wickedness." He had one major problem, his heart was not right with God. He wanted to move in the gifts (as is sometimes said), and he was a hairs-breadth from blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Peter's reply was a foretaste of what Jesus spoke of when He made clear, Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matthew 7:21–23 KJV) In other words, you are not spiritual because you appear to be prophesying, casting out devils and doing miracles: you are spiritual when you do God's will. Again as it is written, And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him. (Acts 5:32 NKJV)
Many people have learned about receiving the Holy Spirit through what we might call "on-the-job training." They learned it from someone they trusted and watched — who learned from someone they trusted and watched and so on. Meanwhile, few have returned to their bible to see if what was going on is biblical. Apart from a few obscure proof texts, there is little for them to base what they are doing on. This is why ministers and altar workers try to pray people through to the Holy Spirit who haven't even repented of their sins and trusted Christ. Their heart is not right with God and someone is trying to pray them into receiving the Spirit. This is madness, but it happens all the time and it has happened for decades.
I personally have been in countless meetings where altar calls were given and there had not been enough Gospel preached to save a flea, and yet folks are trying to pray people through to the Spirit. The band starts playing and people are driven into near madness trying to somehow get to God. In many cases the music is so loud that the people can't hear God. They are being carried along in some mindless music induced emotional state. What happens? They have a good cry, utter a few unintelligable words, and there is no change. Someone declares, "You got it! You got the Holy Ghost!" And they go back to their old ways. Why? Because they try to do with music and emotionalism what can only happen through total surrendering our will to God's will. The altar workers are listening for the sound of a "tongue" rather then seeking to lead a person into total obedience to God. Tongues is the end-all. What is more delusional is that these type altar calls are believed to be essential to the furtherance of Pentecostalism and if we don't have them, we have failed in ministry.
How can we know if the goings on in meetings are producing fruit? First, turn the attention off of the supernatural and get it on Jesus. A person has to come completely under His authority. This can take days and weeks to establish. It all depends on the person and their understanding of what God is doing in them. Many people try to receive and resist the Holy Spirit at the same time. They want to receive His power-- while resisting His Lordship and guidance. This is impossible. To dabble in this way is to open oneself up to demons and counterfeit spiritual gifts.
When the Holy Spirit really comes in He pours in with the love of God (Romans 5:5). Compassion for all people floods into your being. This is what Paul was speaking if when he wrote, If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. (1 Corinthians 13:1 ESV) Speaking in tongues is wonderful, but if a person is doing it who does not move in the love of Christ it is only an annoyance to people. We may even want to question the source of the utterance. The Holy Spirit does not come in with just tongues or prophecy: He brings the full load of the fruit of the Spirit. This means compassion for people like unto what we find in the New Testament.
For example, while Christ was on the cross suffering the worst injustice in the history of mankind He uttered these words, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. (Luke 23:34) The question is not whether a person speaks in tongues, but whether they can forgive like Jesus forgave. What about Stephen when he was being stoned to death at the hands of a merciless angry mob? And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. (Acts 7:60) How could he do it? Why didn’t he curse and swear as the pain and agony bore down upon his battered body? What about Paul the Apostle? He spoke of being stoned, beaten of rods, and a host of other disfiguring assaults. Nevertheless, he could raise his shirt, show you the scars on his back, and still exclaim, "I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh" (Romans 9:1-3 NKJV).
No matter how deep the nails probed into Christ's hands or the spear probed into His rib and side — they still tapped love. Stephen was smashed to bits and as they stirred through his battered body nothing could be found but love. When Paul was beaten and stoned the scars left behind his testimony, I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh. These are the words of lamentation because of the Israelites who had rejected the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the love of God. This is what removes the clanging gong from the testimony of those who speak with tongues and move in the gifts.
The disciples had desired to call fire down from heaven on the Samaritans, but here is Paul wishing himself could be accursed from Christ if it would save his people. Have you ever wondered why he would utter such things? What could be at work inside of him to make such selfless statements? He was not lying. He means it. His own conscience is affirming within that he is not faking these comments. This is fervent, unfeigned love. Could this be the same man that was breathing out threatening and slaughter against Christians some twenty years before? What could have possibly caused such a radical change in this man?
Simply put, he was baptized into Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit and that reality was demonstrated through his great compassion and labor on behalf of Christ. He was no noisy gong. He was the real thing, and he wanted the Corinthians to be that too.