New Tongues: the Evidence of the Spirit
"Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant. Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led. Wherefore I give you to understand that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is Lord, but by the Holy Ghost." --I Corinthians 12:1-3
When the Corinthians were idolaters, they were "carried away," even "as they were led" unto dumb idols. Leon Morris says on this: "The verb is often used of leading away a prisoner or condemned person (e.g. Mark 14:44; 15:16). The heathen are pictured, not as men freely following the gods their intellects have fully approved, but as under constraint, as helpless, as men who know no better. There is something pathetic about idol worship. Dumb idols characterize their deities as totally unable to answer those who call upon them.... Far from reaching the dignity of the sons of God, they were continually led about. And no matter how they were led, they were brought only to dumb deities." [Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: Corinthians, page 167. Eerdmans, 1958.]
Charles Hodge, commenting on I Corinthians 12:2: "They were carried away to this worship just as they were led, i.e. they were controlled by an influence which they could not understand or resist. Compare, as to the force of the word here used, Gal. 2:13, 2 Pet. 3:17. It is often spoken of those who are led away to judgment, to prison or to execution. Mark 14:53. John 18:13. Matt. 27:21. Paul means to contrast this being carried away, as it were, by force, with the being led by the Spirit. The one was an irrational influence controlling the understanding and will; the other is an influence from God, congruous to our nature, and leading to good." [Charles Hodge: An Exposition of 1 and 2 Corinthians, Sovereign Grace Publishers, 1972]
Paul's contrast is emphatic: between an involuntary, irrational seizure that carries away to idols, and a voluntary, rational confession of the truth about Jesus Christ spoken in words that have meaning and can be understood.
True worship of God is not in irrational, involuntary seizures resulting in incoherent speech [this suits better the worship of dumb or speechless idols], but in the reception of the words of the Gospel message, and confession that they are true. No man can do this naturally, for faith is not a work of the flesh, but of the Spirit (Eph. 2:8-10 and Romans 10:9,10).
The evidence for the Holy Spirit, then, is the confession of faith in Jesus Christ that is rational, coherent, and deliberate. The substance of this confession is that "Jesus is the Lord." It is not in the mouthing of the words that is the work of the Holy Spirit, for the words can be said in any language under the sun, not just in the Greek that Paul used. Not empty sounds, but meaning.
The heart of man's rebellion is his refusal to submit to the authority of God and to the revelation concerning His Son, Jesus Christ. Because of the blindness of man's heart, he has been given over to bondage to the devil and can no more deliver himself than a leopard can change his spots. His rebellion against God is at the core of his being and can be subdued only by the work of the Holy Spirit.
This is the difference between the unclean spirits that carried men away to idolatry, and the work of the Holy Spirit. The work of the Holy Spirit does not involve irrational seizures or lofty "spirituality," but involves the whole man in his rational processes, his will, and his emotions. Just as Jesus in His conception by the Holy Spirit became truly human and died a truly human death for us, so the work of the Holy Spirit is to bring us to true humanity, subduing our rebellious wills, enlightening our minds, freeing our tongues to speak the truth before men, and stirring our emotions to love, peace, and joy in Christ.
Salvation means the salvation of a human being, so we are called to "present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." (Romans 12:1,2). We are not taught the will of God by uncontrolled seizures that bypass our human intellect, but our minds are renewed, and this renewing transforms us.
When you see a man who confesses that Jesus is Lord, and by his life shows that his confession is not simply empty meaningless words spoken into the air, it is there that you see manifested the work of the Holy Spirit.