I have been to dozens of charismatic gatherings that have all without exception, broken the Bible's guidelines for tongues. "If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. 28If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God. 1 Cor 14:27-28"
This passage gives the following restrictions for the use of tongues in the church:
1. No more than three may speak.
2. Only one at a time (by course).
3. Tongues must be interpreted or not spoken at all.
I have heard and seen charismatic tongue speaking people barking, shaking, twisting their heads, jumping up and down, falling on the ground and this in churches. Some of these peeps have said that I'm not a Christian b/c I don't speak in tongues.
Many of you have been hurt by these kind of groups and have asked me what I think about this topic, so here it is.
Below are 2 solid articles on why the Bible teaches that tongues have ceased. I agree with most of what these 2 authors hold to.
Tell me what you think?
Let me begin by saying that I used to speak in what people call "tongues" today. As a new Christian, I became involved in the Charismatic movement and came to believe all of the modern Charismatic teachings on tongues. But as I continued to study my Bible and other materials on the subject, I soon realized that what I was doing was not the biblical gift of tongues.
What were tongues in the Bible? What was their purpose? Is the gift of tongues still in existence today? If not, then what are those who claim to speak in tongues actually doing? In an area that is often filled with much confusion and misunderstanding, it will be the purpose of this booklet to examine what the Bible says about this subject. What is the biblical teaching on tongues?
What Were Biblical Tongues?
And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. Acts 2:4,6
This passage tells us what tongues were. Tongues were languages. The following verses go on to list numerous groups whose languages were being spoken.
Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues [languages] the wonderful works of God. Acts 2:9-11
The word tongue, then, means language. This is confirmed by many other passages of scripture.
... I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. Acts 26:14
... and the writing of the letter was written in the Syrian tongue, and interpreted in the Syrian tongue. Ezra 4:7
... whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon. Rev 9:11
Tongues, wherever you find them in the Bible, are languages. This is important to note, for those who claim to be speaking in tongues today are not speaking in actual languages.
There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification [significance of the differing sounds]. 1 Cor 14:10
One thing that makes a language a language is that each sound has an agreed-upon meaning. "Up" means up and never means down. "White" means white and never mean giraffe. But the gibberish that is spoken by modern so-called tongues speakers is not a language at all.
People have taped those who claim to have the gifts of both tongues and the interpretation of tongues. What they have found without fail, when matching up the words of the speaker with the words of the interpreter, is inconsistency. One time the sound "ato" supposedly means "God", but the next time it is used to mean "pray", and the time after that "repent". This is not possible with any true language. So modern so-called tongues speakers, although they may claim to be speaking in actual languages, are not.
Are There Two Kinds of Tongues?
Some people will object at this point. They will say "But there are two kinds of tongues in the Bible. One is a language, but the other is an ‘ecstatic utterance’ (gibberish)". It is often said that the tongues in Acts chapter 2 are different from the tongues in 1 Corinthians chapter 14. But where in the Bible does it say that there were more than one type of tongues? It doesn’t. This confusion is brought about by the fact that in 1 Corinthians chapter 14 the Bible says that tongues needed to be interpreted to be understood. But in Acts chapter 2, they were understood without interpretation. Does this indicate that there were two different types of tongues?
It must be pointed out that a person who spoke in tongues was supernaturally gifted by God with the ability to speak in a language that he did not know. The person speaking didn’t even know what he himself was saying — unless, of course, God also gave him the gift of interpretation. Then why didn’t the tongues in Acts chapter 2 need to be interpreted? A careful reading of the text will reveal why.
And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. Acts 2:4-6
You see, on the day of Pentecost, there were people present (in Jerusalem) from "every nation under heaven". So many languages were being spoken that each person present heard his own language being spoken, so no interpretation was needed. But this was not the case in Corinth (1 Corinthians 14). When the local Christians in Corinth gathered together and a person began to speak in a language that he did not know, the others in Corinth didn’t understand the language either. It therefore needed to be interpreted. The tongues in 1 Corinthians 14 were the same as the tongues in Acts 2. Both were languages. The Bible knows nothing of two different types of tongues.
What was the Biblical Purpose of Tongues?
In the law it is written, WITH MEN OF OTHER TONGUES AND OTHER LIPS WILL I SPEAK UNTO THIS PEOPLE; AND YET FOR ALL THAT WILL THEY NOT HEAR ME, saith the Lord. Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: 1 Cor 14:21-22
This passage tells us the biblical purpose for tongues. "Tongues are for a sign". This is not for believers but for unbelievers (a sign to unbelieving Jews). Verse 21 is a reference to Isaiah chapter 28.
For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people. To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear. But the word of the Lord was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken.
This passage says that God will cause people to speak to the Jews (this people) with another tongue. Yet they will not hear, but will fall backward and be broken and snared (judgment will come).
On the day of Pentecost, after the apostles spoke in tongues, a great crowd gathered to see what was going on. The Apostle Peter then spoke to this Jewish crowd. One thing he told them was:
This Jesus hath God raised up, where-of we all are witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear [tongues]. For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, THE LORD SAID UNTO MY LORD, SIT THOU ON MY RIGHT HAND, UNTIL I MAKE THY FOES THY FOOTSTOOL. Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. Acts 2:32-36
This same Jesus whom the Jews had crucified was now in Heaven, exalted at the right hand of God. His foes (including the Jews who had crucified him) will be made his footstool. Peter, therefore, warned them in verse 40 to "save yourselves from this untoward generation (from the judgment to come upon it)". The evidence (sign) that this judgment would come was that Jesus had "shed forth that which ye now see and hear (tongues)". Tongues were a sign to the Jews who had rejected and killed their Messiah, that God’s judgment was going to come. More will be said about this in the next section.
Is the Gift of Tongues Still in Existence Today?
Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. 1 Cor 13:8
This passage tells us that tongues were to cease (pass away). But when were they to cease? Tongues were to cease when their purpose had been fulfilled.
We made reference in the last section to the purpose for the gift of tongues. The purpose was as a sign to the unbelieving Jews who had rejected their Messiah, that God’s judgment would come. Once this judgment came, the purpose for tongues would be fulfilled and tongues would cease.
When did this happen? Again, let us look to the new Testament.
But when the king [God] heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. [Jerusalem] Matthew 22:7
And when he was come near, he beheld the city, [Jerusalem] and wept over it, Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation [Rejected your Messiah]. Luke 19:41-44
And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. Luke 21:20,22,24
All of these passages refer to 70 AD The Jews rejected and killed their Messiah, and God sent judgment in 70 AD by allowing the Roman armies to destroy Jerusalem.
Tongues were for a sign to unbelieving Jews that these things would come to pass. Once this judgment came, the purpose for tongues was fulfilled and tongues ceased. This is consistent with the writings of the Early Church, for after 70 AD, no one was any longer said to have been speaking in tongues.
What About Today’s "Tongues"?
If biblical tongues were languages, but today’s "tongues" are not languages, and if biblical tongues ceased in 70 AD but people still claim to be speaking in tongues today, what is going on? There are two explanations for modern tongues.
A Supernatural Explanation
Although biblical tongues were always languages, there is obviously another type of "tongues" present in the world today, but it is far from biblical. This type of "tongues" is an "ecstatic utterance" (gibberish). But where is it found? It is found, not only among Charismatics, but also among those in false religions. Ecstatic speech is common today among Muslims, Eskimos, Tibetan Monks (Buddhists), and even among those in the occult.
One can’t help but notice the obvious ramifications of this. If these "tongues" are the biblical gift of tongues, is God also giving this gift to those in pagan religions, cults, and the occult? No! Jesus Christ only gives spiritual gifts to those within the Christian Church. (Ephesians 4:8,11; 1 Corinthians 12:28). Therefore, since these "tongues" also exist outside of the Christian Church, they cannot be the biblical gift of tongues. It seems that the same spirit that is misleading those in false religions is also misleading those within the Christian Church. (1 Cor 10:20; 1 Tim 4:1)
A Natural Explanation
As I stated in the introduction, I used to speak in what people call "tongues" today. At first I desired to speak with tongues and prayed to God that he would enable me to do so. But nothing happened. I read about the people in the Bible who spoke in tongues, and with them it just happened. In most cases, they had no idea that they were going to speak in tongues until after it had already happened.
I finally came across a booklet written by a popular Charismatic teacher which taught me how to speak in "tongues" (so called). That is exactly what the booklet did — these tongues were not a supernatural gift from God. It was something that could be learned. I was coached to begin speaking nonsensical syllables and let my tongue go. The booklet said that God would take over and control what I spoke. I think that I was aware all along that I was the one doing it — not God — but I had been conditioned to believe that I needed to do this in order to be "spiritual". Now looking back, I see how unscriptural all of this was. No one in the Bible was ever coached or taught how to speak in tongues. As I said before, it just happened to them. They did not expect, tarry, or do anything.
Biblical Restrictions on Tongues
Even the use of true biblical tongues was restricted in the Bible.
If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course [one at a time]; and let one interpret. But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church ... 1 Cor 14:27-28
This passage gives the following restrictions for the use of tongues in the church:
No more than three may speak.
Only one at a time (by course).
Tongues must be interpreted or not spoken at all.
Every one of these restrictions is broken on a regular basis in many Charismatic churches. In the one I used to go to, people (more than three) would stand in a circle at the front of the church building. Then they would all speak in "tongues" (gibberish) at the same time (not one at a time), and in most cases nothing was interpreted. This was clearly a violation of all three of the above restrictions. Paul foresaw this kind of chaos.
If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad? 1 Cor 14:23
What is the priority of speaking in known languages as opposed to speaking in tongues?
Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue. 1 Cor 14:19
There are many verses that are misinterpreted by teachers within the Charismatic Movement today. In this section we will look at a few of them.
Praying in the Spirit
But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, Jude 1:20
The common Charismatic interpretation of this verse says that praying in the Holy Ghost (praying in the Spirit) refers to speaking in tongues. Well the Bible also tells us to walk in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16). If to "pray in the Spirit" means to pray in tongues, then to "walk in the spirit" must mean, to walk in tongues?
How silly. To walk in the Spirit means to walk "according to" the Spirit’s leading. To pray in the Spirit then, means to pray "according to the Spirit’s leading". The Holy Spirit will prompt us to pray for certain things. When we follow that prompting, we are praying "in the Spirit". This verse has nothing to do with speaking (or praying) in tongues.
Tongues of Angels
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 1 Cor 13:1
The common Charismatic interpretation of this verse says that tongues is a heavenly prayer language spoken by angels. We need to make a distinction between the word "tongue" and the word "tongues". When the word tongue (singular) is used, it is a reference to a single language. When the word tongues (plural) is used, it refers to more than one language. So, we must remember to define our terms properly according to the Bible.
Tongue = one language.
Tongues = more than one language.
To say that, "Tongues is a heavenly prayer language." doesn’t make sense. To use proper English, we would have to say, "Tongues are heavenly prayer languages." But no one says that tongues are prayer languages (plural). They (misunder-standing the terms) use the word tongues as if it were the same as the word tongue. This results in a twisting of scripture.
This passage says "tongues" (plural), not "tongue" (singular). It says "tongues of men and of angels". There are tongues (plural) of men and there are tongues (plural) of angels. This passage does not say that angels speak in "a tongue" (one language). It says that angels speak in "tongues" (more than one language). This passage, then, does not say that angels speak in a heavenly language.
What, then, is this passage saying? It says that if a person were able to speak with all the tongues (languages) that a man might be able to speak with (some men know over a dozen), and even with all the tongues (languages) that angels are able to speak with (they undoubtedly know thousands), but if they do not have charity (love), they are just making a lot of noise. This verse is making the point that love is far more important than speaking in tongues (languages).
No Man Understandeth
For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries. 1 Cor 14:2
For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful. 1 Cor 14:14
The common Charismatic interpretation of these verses says that speaking in tongues is a private prayer language. It is further stated that the tongues spoken of here could not be languages, for no man was able to understand them.
What a twisting of the texts. Paul is not saying that tongues is a private prayer language that cannot be understood. Paul is pointing out the futility of speaking in a language that is UNKNOWN to the hearers.
The context of this passage has to do with edification. If someone is speaking in a language that is UNKNOWN to the hearers, how is that edifying? That person is left speaking to the only one who can understand — God. This is why Paul forbade speaking in tongues without an interpreter (1 Cor. 14:28).
Groanings Which Cannot be Uttered
Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Rom 8:26
The common Charismatic interpretation of this verse says that since we often don’t know what to pray for, we should speak in tongues and the Holy Spirit will pray through us the very thing that needs to be prayed.
Is that what this verse is talking about? No it is not. This passage says that the Holy Spirit will pray FOR us not "through" us. It further states that what is prayed are "Groanings which cannot be utterered (spoken). Since tongues are uttered they cannot be what this verse is referring to.
What then is this verse saying? Exactly what it says. Since we do not always know what to pray, the Holy Spirit prays FOR us. His groanings cannot be uttered.
He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church. 1 Cor 14:4
The common Charismatic interpretation of this verse says that tongues is a private prayer language which strengthens and edifies the believer.
It is interesting to note that 1 Corinthians chapter 14 was written to rebuke the Corinthians for their misuse of the gifts, especially tongues. The Corinthians were each trying to take center stage and show themselves as the most spiritual. Paul rebukes them for this and tells them that this is not edifying for others in the church (1 Cor. 14:12, 26).
By trying to flaunt their gifts, the Corinthians were "edifying" themselves. This verse is not a commendation. It is a rebuke.
Speak with New Tongues
And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen. Mark 16:17-20
This is another passage that is commonly misinterpreted by Charismatics today. They tell us that these signs (including tongues) will follow all believers. But 1 Corinthians 12:29-30 makes it clear that not all believers could speak in tongues nor perform healings. So we know that this cannot be the correct interpretation of the passage. Secondly, this passage not only lists tongues as one of the signs, but also the ability to drink poison and not be affected by it as well. Few who claim this passage as proof that they possess the gift of tongues today, would also be willing to claim that they can drink poison and not be affected by it. But consistency in their interpretation would require it.
Since the Charismatic interpretation of this passage is obviously wrong, what then is this passage saying? Verses 17-19 speak of the signs that would be taking place in the early days of the church as the gospel went forth during the days of the apostles. Verse 20 speaks of these events in the past tense - they went (past tense) forth and this did happen. People did speak with tongues (Acts 2:4), the apostles and those whom they commissioned did cast out evil spirits (Acts 5:16, 8:7) , and Paul was bitten by a poisonous snake and lived (Acts 28:3). But by the time we come to the writing of the book of Hebrews these signs are once again spoken of as having passed.
How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will? Heb 2:3-4
Here the "confirmation", previously spoken of in Mark, is once again said to have already passed. If these things were still happening, the passage would have said "is being confirmed". But, since these signs were no longer taking place, it says "was confirmed". The time for these signs had already passed. Mark gives us a description of how the gospel went forth in the early days of the church under the ministry of the apostles. But it is Matthew who tells us how the gospel is to go forth until the end of the world.
And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. Matthew 28:18-20
There is no reference to signs or miracles here. There is no reference to this going forth of the gospel as being past. This is the way the gospel was, and is, to go forth unto the end of the world.
1. Many people claim to speak in tongues today, but these "tongues" have nothing to do with the biblical gift of tongues.
2. Biblical tongues were languages — modern tongues are not.
3. Biblical tongues were a sign to unbelieving Jews — modern tongues are not.
4. Biblical tongues ceased in 70 AD — the modern tongues movement did not begin until 1900.
5. Biblical tongues were a supernatural gift that came upon people unexpectedly — modern tongues are often a learned behavior. Even unbelievers can learn to do it.
6. Biblical tongues were found only within the Christian church — modern tongues are also found in pagan religions, cults, and the occult.
7. What will you believe? Will you believe what the Bible says about tongues?
WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS ABOUT SPEAKING IN TONGUES
This message preached by David B. Curtis on February 17, 2002. Tape #236.
I want to talk to you this morning on the subject of "Speaking in Tongues". There is probably not a subject that is more controversial in the church today. Many would tell us that speaking in tongues is something that we are told to seek after, and to pray for. "Speaking in tongues" is so popular that there is a movement named after it, "The tongues movement." The importance of the tongues movement is magnified by the teaching that connects it with the "Baptism with the Holy Spirit."
These opening paragraphs of a message preached by Kenneth Miller illustrate my point:
'Visa, it's everywhere you want to be. Don't leave home without it' is a slogan of the popular credit card. It reminds me of the words of Jesus in Acts 1.4-5, where our Lord commanded His followers not to leave Jerusalem without the 'Promise of the Father'. This is clearly a reference to the infilling of the Holy Spirit that Jesus went on to call the 'Baptism with the Holy Spirit' in verse 5.
Jesus' early followers obeyed, but today we have many genuine lovers of the Lord Jesus who leave 'home' constantly and venture out without the 'Promise of the Father', and as always is the case when we disobey the Lord, they miss out on the best He has for them.
It is my intention with this study to set forth a simple and reasoned approach to the subject of 'speaking in tongues', and since in the Book of Acts we see that when the Holy Spirit is said to 'fill' or 'baptize' or to be 'received' or be 'poured out on' or 'fall upon', we also see that these ones 'spoke in tongues'.
Do you see what he is doing? He is connecting the baptism with the Holy Spirit with tongues speaking. This is a very common teaching.
Kenneth Hagan of Tulsa, Oklahoma says, "Speaking in tongues is always manifested when people are baptized in the Holy Spirit."
Donald Gee says, "The distinctive doctrine of the Pentecostal churches is that speaking with tongues is the initial evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit."
Let me ask you a question, believers, "When does the baptism of the Holy Spirit take place in the life of the believer?"
1 Corinthians 12:13 (NKJV) For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body; whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free; and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.
All believers have received the baptism of the Holy Spirit,..."we were all baptized."..The Baptism of the Holy Spirit takes place at salvation, it is something all believers have in common.
Romans 8:9 (NKJV) But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.
Even the carnal Corinthians had received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is non-experiential, it is a positional work of God. It takes place at salvation. When the Spirit baptizes us into the Body of Christ, he puts us into Christ. He joins our life with his; he becomes our source of existence and strength; we are part of him. To not have it, is to not be saved.
Now, as we study this subject of "speaking in tongues", we find that, first of all, there is relatively little said in Scripture about tongues. Compared with the tremendous amount of emphasis put on tongues today, it becomes very obvious that this is very much out of proportion. It is interesting to note that there is very little relative emphasis upon tongues in the New Testament. The word occurs only once in all four of the Gospels. There are only three incidences connected with it referred to in the Book of Acts. In all of Paul's letters, it is only referred to in one letter, and that is in the letter of 1 Corinthians. In many of the other letters to churches dealing with many other problems and attitudes, Paul never mentions tongues. There is no reference to tongues by any of the other New Testament writers or in the Book of Revelation. So you see, there is relatively little emphasis on tongues in the New Testament.
What Is the Biblical Meaning of Speaking in Tongues?
Let's see if we can answer that question by examining the Scripture. The subject of tongues is found in three books of the Bible. It is found in Mark 16:17; Acts 2, 10, 19; and in 1 Corinthians 12-14.
Mark 16:17 (NKJV) "And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues;
Here tongues is preceded by the word "new", meaning: "something not previously present". This is a prediction (at the time of the writing) of what will happen at Pentecost.
When we read Mark 16:17, or Acts 10 or 19, or 1 Corinthians 12-14 and read the word, "tongues", we have no description in these passages of what "tongues" is. So we need to go somewhere else in the Bible, if we can, and find a description, or definition, or synonym which will define the meaning of tongues. Or we can develop a meaning of tongues by what others tell us it is. This seems to be the norm today, most people have developed their definition of tongues from what others have said about it. There are three predominate views of what tongues are: 1.They are a known human language.2. They are ecstatic speech, an unknown angelic language, a private prayer language. 3. They can be either of the first two.
What do the Scriptures say? That is what is really important. We have a description of tongues at their first occurrence in Acts 2, which seems to be a logical place to describe what this gift is.
Acts 2:1-8 (NKJV) When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. 5 And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. 6 And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. 7 Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, "Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? 8 "And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 "Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 "Cretans and Arabs; we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God."
Verse four says,..."they began to speak with other tongues..". The Greek word that is translated "tongues" is glossa, which refers to the organ in your mouth or the use of that organ, a language. The Greek word for "other" is heteros, it means: "another of a different kind". We could translate this, "They spoke with different languages."
In verses 4 & 11 we have the term glossa, and in verses 9 -11 we have a clear explanation of what glossa is, it is: "a known human language". Verse 6 & 8 use the Greek word dialektos, translated here as "languages". Dialektos is the language or dialect of a country or district. It can be more specific than the general language and refers to inflection and tone. On the day of Pentecost the people heard not only in their own language, but more technically in their own dialect.
Both glossa and dialektos refer to language, known human language. So from Acts 2 we have a clear explanation of what this new thing "tongues" was.
Verse 11 tells us that they began to speak in languages which they had never learned and were preaching the wonderful works of God. This was the ability to communicate in a language not previously learned. Biblically, the gift of tongues is the ability to speak a language that you have never learned. It is not uttering some ecstatic utterance which makes no sense, it is not gibberish, it is not a jargon, it is a known language that is spoken somewhere on earth and can be reduced to writing. It is a known language, that is the point.
As you read the account in Acts 2, there is no question about this, because there were sixteen languages mentioned there and people who spoke those languages were present. They heard these men speaking in tongues, that is, speaking in languages as the Spirit gave them utterance; and they said to each other, "How is this? Why, these men are Galileans; we can tell by their dress that they are just ignorant fishermen. How is it that all of us have heard them speak in our own tongue - in our own language?"Then the Spirit of God lists the languages, and there are sixteen of them from all parts of the earth. This was during the time when the feasts were being celebrated, so there were thousands of strangers in Jerusalem at that time, and these men heard these languages. The amazing thing to me is that the people today who claim to have this gift of languages when preaching to a foreign audience use a translator. Does that make any sense to you? It's okay to be a Christian and think!
Now, If the Bible explains something, then we should be very careful not to put a different explanation on what is obviously the same thing. All the uses of "tongues" in the New Testament (50 of them) refer either to the physical organ in our mouth or to the use of that organ in speaking known human languages.
1 Cor 12:10 (NKJV) to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.
In the phrase..."different kinds of tongues"...the word "kinds" is the Greek word genos, which means; "a family, or group or a race, or nation." Linguistics uses the term "language families." The reference is to different kinds of languages. Are there families of gibberish?
The word "interpretation" is the Greek word hermeneia, which means: "translation". Translate means to take something in one language and put it into its equivalent in another known language.
Since the word "tongues, glossa," is the same word used in Acts, our conclusion should be that it is the same - known human language. The gibberish and ecstatic utterance that we are seeing today is not the Biblical "tongues".
Someone is bound to ask what about Angel talk?
1 Cor 13:1 (NKJV) Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.
Some say that this is a reference to angel tongues. Search the Scriptures, every time an Angel talks it's in a known human language. In Isaiah 6, Isaiah understood the angel's speech. Look at Luke 1:11, 28; 24:4, angels always spoke in a known human language. In 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 Paul is using hyperbole. He is exaggerating his point and saying even if I could do these things it wouldn't matter without love.
So the biblically defined "tongues" was the supernatural ability to speak in a language (a known human language) you had never learned. Now that we understand the biblical meaning of tongues, let's see if we can discover what the purpose of tongues was:
What Was the Purpose of the Gift of Tongues?
What was the purpose of this known human language that hadn't been learned? Was it so we could preach the gospel to foreigners? Not primarily, look with me at 1 Corinthians 14, Paul provided here the only direct statement regarding the specific purpose of speaking in tongues:
1 Cor 14:21-22 (NKJV) In the law it is written: "With men of other tongues and other lips I will speak to this people; And yet, for all that, they will not hear Me," says the Lord. 22 Therefore tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophesying is not for unbelievers but for those who believe.
Tongues are a sign for unbelievers. If any one today thinks he has the gift of tongues, he needs to deal with the reality of that statement, and he will be forced to reconsider just what he does have. This is the primary purpose of the gift of tongues. Verse 21 is quoting Isaiah 28: 11-12. In verse 22 Paul is applying it to the time of the Corinthians and tells them that if tongues were a sign in the time of Isaiah, they were still a sign. Tongues are not for believing people, they are for unbelieving people.
In verse 21 "this people" refers to Israel. Tongues were specifically a sign for unbelieving Israel. Isaiah 28 is a warning of judgment, verse 21 refers to the Assyrians, which the people would hear if they rejected Isaiah's message. The Assyrian tongue was a sign of judgment to a generation of Israelites rejecting the word of God. So, Paul explained, tongues are a sign of coming judgment for rejecting Jesus the Messiah and the gospel of grace (cf. Matt. 23:37-38).
Moses gave the following warning in:
Deut 28:49 (NKJV) "The LORD will bring a nation against you from afar, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flies, a nation whose language you will not understand,
Jeremiah 5:15 (NKJV) Behold, I will bring a nation against you from afar, O house of Israel," says the LORD. "It is a mighty nation, It is an ancient nation, A nation whose language you do not know, Nor can you understand what they say.
In the Old Testament God had clearly pointed out to the people of Israel that when they were going to be judged, there would be a sign. That sign was that they would hear a language they couldn't understand. When they began to speak those languages on the day of Pentecost, every Jew should have known that the judgment of God was eminent.
Acts 2:12-16 (NKJV) So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, "Whatever could this mean?" 13 Others mocking said, "They are full of new wine." 14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, "Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words. 15 "For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16 "But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
Peter says, "We are not drunk, what you are seeing is the fulfillment of Joel's prophecy." Then he quotes from Joel.
Acts 2:17-18 (NKJV) 'And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams. 18 And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy.
The term "last days" describes the period of time between the birth of Christ and the destruction of Jerusalem. It refers to the last days of the house of Israel, the last days of the Old Covenant era. Peter didn't say that the miracles of Pentecost were "like"what Joel prophesied, he said that "this was the fulfillment." The last days were here. It was a sign of judgment upon Israel. The term "all flesh" refers to Jews and Gentiles. Israel was being judged, and the Gospel was taken to the Gentiles (Romans 11:11).
Acts 2:19-21 (NKJV) I will show wonders in heaven above And signs in the earth beneath: Blood and fire and vapor of smoke. 20 The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD. 21 And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the LORD Shall be saved.'
Isn't this speaking of a future judgment of the whole world? No! This is prophetic language, speaking of the end of the Old Covenant system and the Nation of Israel. The same type of language is used in:
Isaiah 13:9-10 (NKJV) Behold, the day of the LORD comes, Cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger, To lay the land desolate; And He will destroy its sinners from it. 10 For the stars of heaven and their constellations Will not give their light; The sun will be darkened in its going forth, And the moon will not cause its light to shine.
This is prophesying the fall of Babylon to the Medes.
Isaiah 34:4 (NKJV) All the host of heaven shall be dissolved, And the heavens shall be rolled up like a scroll; All their host shall fall down As the leaf falls from the vine, And as fruit falling from a fig tree.
This is prophesying the fall of Edom.
Amos 8:9 (NKJV) "And it shall come to pass in that day," says the Lord GOD, "That I will make the sun go down at noon, And I will darken the earth in broad daylight;
This is prophesying the doom of Samaria.
Ezekiel 32:7-8 (NKJV) When I put out your light, I will cover the heavens, and make its stars dark; I will cover the sun with a cloud, And the moon shall not give her light. 8 All the bright lights of the heavens I will make dark over you, And bring darkness upon your land,' Says the Lord GOD.
This is prophesying the destruction of Egypt. None of these events literally took place. Poetically however, all these things did happen; as far as these wicked nations were concerned, "the lights went out." This is simply figurative language predicting the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD. The light of Israel was extinguished, the Old Covenant era was through.
Tongues was primarily a sign of judgment to unbelieving Jews. But secondarily, when tongues were interpreted, they edified believers.
1 Corinthians 14:26-28 (NKJV) How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. 27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. 28 But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God.
Verses 27 & 28 tell us that tongues uninterpreted don't edify. Therefore, if there is no interpretation, there is to be no tongues. Are these the same tongues as in Acts 2? Glossa is always used of the tongue or languages. To use the word glossa and mean ecstatic speech would be to confuse the issue.
What about Tongues Being a Private Prayer Language?
1 Corinthians 14:2 (NKJV) For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries.
Well, it says he is speaking unto God; thus it is a private prayer language, right? No! Paul is not praising them here, he's saying only God can understand you, to men it's a mystery, because its uninterpreted. The Biblical gift of tongues never occurs in private. Like all the gifts of the Spirit, it was designed for the common good. It is a public gift, and every instance of its appearance in the Bible is a public occasion where others are present. It is not a private gift, and it is not exercised anywhere in the New Testament in private. If you were to examine every prayer prayed in the Bible, and if you were to study every passage in the Bible which taught about prayer, you would not find anything, anywhere, anytime, that even suggests that prayer should ever be unintelligible.
Matthew 6:5-8 (NKJV) "And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 6 "But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. 7 "And when you pray, do not use vain repetitionsas the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 "Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.
The word "repetitions" is the Greek word battologeo, which comes from the verb, legeo, (to speak) and the prefix batta. Batta is a figure of speech that in English we call an "onomatopoeia" which is a word that sounds like what it is,(buzz, zip, zing, rip). Jesus was literally saying, when you pray don't say, "Batta, batta, batta," the gibberish that the pagans offer to their gods.
What is prayer? It is a declaration of our dependency. It's saying, "God I'm dependent upon you, and I need your help." You don't pray in gibberish, if you do, you have no idea what you're saying to God. It's just noise. 1 Corinthians 14:22 says, "tongues are for a sign," not for a private prayer language.
So, we have seen the meaning of tongues, it was a known human language. And we have seen the purpose of tongues, it was a sign of judgment. Now let's deal with the duration of tongues, how long was this sign to last?
The Duration of Tongues
1 Corinthians 13:8-10 (NKJV) Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.
Based on Paul's words in this passage, the only question as to whether or not the gift of "tongues" exists today as it did in Bible times is a question of timing. Has "that which is perfect" come? If it has, then tongues have ceased. But if "that which is perfect" has not yet come, then tongues have not ceased, and God has meant for tongues to continue on throughout the centuries as a normal practice in the Church up to our present day.
I don't have time to go into all the details of this passage at this time. If you want a detailed explanation of this passage, see my message "The Perfect has Come". I believe that "that which is perfect" refers to the maturity of the body of Christ at the rapture of the church, which happened at the second coming of Christ in AD 70; bringing the destruction of Old Covenant Israel and ushering in the New Heavens and New Earth which closed the cannon.
Tongues was a sign of judgment. Once judgment had fallen on Israel, the gift would have no significance at all. Judgment fell on Israel in 70AD; the temple was destroyed and the sacrifices came to an end.
History records that the gift of tongues ceased in the apostolic age. As a young Christian trying to understand "tongues", I studied the history of the church in regards to prayer and tongues and found that the first revival of tongues within the confines of the evangelical church of Jesus Christ since the apostolic age was in 1901. Where had it been for 1800 years? 1 Corinthians 13:8 says that... "tongues will cease.".. There is no indication that they would ever start up again.
The post-apostolic fathers don't discuss the gift of tongues. It is nowhere found in any of their writings.
Clement, of Rome, wrote a letter to the Corinthians in AD95 discussing all of their spiritual problems, and he didn't even mention tongues.
Justin Martyr, who lived from AD 100-165, wrote much but never mentioned tongues. He even made lists of the Spiritual gifts that do not include the gift of tongues.
Origen, who lived from AD 185-253, in his apologetic, Against Celsus, explicitly argued that the signs of the apostolic age were temporary, and that no contemporary Christian exercised any of the ancient prophetical gifts.
Chrysostom, AD 347-407, in his homilies on 1 Corinthians, comments on chapter 12, "This whole place is very obscure; but the obscurity is produced by our ignorance of the facts referred to and by their cessation, being such as then used to occur but now no longer take place."
Augustine, AD 354-430, comments on Acts 2:4, "In the earliest times, the Holy Spirit fell upon them that believed, and they spoke with tongues. These were signs adapted to the time. For there behooved to be that betokening, and it passed away."
So the greatest theologians of the ancient church considered the gift of tongues a remote practice.
To be fair, there are some supposed occurrences of tongues since the apostolic age: Montanus, from Phrygia, with two female priestesses, Prisca and Maximilla, spoke in ecstatic utterances. Montanus, who claimed to be the Holy Spirit, was thrown out of the church as a heretic. After Montanus the next eruptions of tongues wasn't until the late 17th century.
Now, if what I have said thus far is true, you might be asking, "How Do We Explain What Is Happening Today?" People are having an experience and speaking in ecstatic speech. Yes, they are. But it's not the Biblical "speaking in tongues". Biblically, tongues was a known human language that was spoken as a sign to the generation that lived in the last days.
If it's not biblical tongues, what is it? Personally, I believe that the so called "tongue speaking" that goes on in Christianity today can be explained as "learned behavior." It's not a miracle or a supernatural experience, and it's not a Spiritual gift. Tongues could also be psychological, sort of a self-hypnosis brought on by the frenzy of some of the Charismatic meetings.
Why Are Tongues So Popular today?
1. Spiritual hunger - People are told that tongues are a great spiritual experience, and if they haven't had the experience they are missing something.
2. It provides an instant spirituality. Tongues is considered a manifestation of spirituality, holiness. Those who speak in tongues have arrived.
3. The need of acceptance and security. It makes you part of the in group. When you associate with those who speak in tongues it is only natural that you would want to be like them. In being like them you ensure your acceptance.
4. The church today as a whole is biblically ignorant. This ignorance causes us to blindly follow many unbiblical practices.
Do you want a deep meaningful spiritual experience? Let me show you how to get it:
John 14:21 (NKJV) "He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him."
Knowing God's word and living in obedience to it will bring you into an intimate relationship with the Lord like you have never known.
I believe that speaking in tongues is wrong doctrinally, but if those who do have trusted the Lord Jesus Christ for their salvation, they are our brothers and sisters in Christ. And because of that we are to love them. They are, for the most part, a very loving, caring, kind people. Let's learn from their good points and dwell together in love. Let's not use what we know to attack and put down other believers, but by love let's serve one another.
Speaking in tongues was a known human language. The primary purpose of tongues was as a sign of God's judgment on the nation Israel. Tongues ceased when God's judgment fell on Old Covenant Israel in AD 70.