Is “Tongue Speaking” For Today?

I could not count the times I have had discussions with folks about this subject. Usually when you say you do not believe that anyone can speak in “tongues” today, those who believe they have, or that they have witnessed some who did, are immediately “turned off” to anything else you may say. They rarely will listen to why you know that there must be some other explanation for what they have witnessed, or claim they can do, or have done, for “tongue speaking” isn’t being done by anyone today, period! Among those (usually Pentecostal groups-though no longer limited to them) who believe this gift of the Holy Spirit is still for followers of Christ today, there is much disagreement.

Some among these groups admit that they haven’t received this “gift” while others connect it with conversion. If you haven’t spoken in “tongues” then your conversion is suspect to say the least among some Pentecostals. Interestingly enough, they fellowship those who “have” as well as those who haven’t. Doctrinally most all groups who believe in “tongue speaking” for today, reject the very teachings of Jesus as given in the “great commission” as essential to being saved from alien sins. These groups believe in a “direct operation of the Holy Spirit” or a “better felt than told” experience for “conversion.” This is why the “altar call.” It used to be called the “mourner’s bench” where folks agonized and pleaded with God to come save them. It was called “praying through” in some Pentecostal circles. Their terminology may have changed somewhat, but they still teach much the same concerning what they call their “conversion experience.”

Why they believe men and women must beg God to save them when He clearly teaches His desire for everyone’s salvation and to this end, gave His Son to die for everyone (John 3:16; Hebrews 2:9; Romans 5:6-8; 1 Timothy 2:4),is difficult to understand?! Don’t try to tell a Pentecostal (or most other denominational folks) that a believer in Jesus Christ must “repent and be immersed for the forgiveness of sins” (Acts 2:38)!. Without exception, they will claim salvation before and without water baptism and without membership in the church. To all these folks, “conversion” and “church membership” are not the same action.

I guess one shouldn’t be surprised when one cannot instruct these folks on the subject of “tongues”, since they reject Christ’s “plan of salvation” from alien sins out of hand, and opt for what in many cases is more like a convulsion than it is conversion! Later, the person so “saved” then “joins the church.” All this, while still out of Christ and out of His blood bought church. True conversion and church membership (in Christ’s church) come by the same process. The New Testament church is called the “bride of Christ” (Ephesians 5:22-33). When the alien sinner repents and is immersed into Christ and into His death, one becomes a purchased possession of Christ and is added to His blood bought church (Romans 6:3-6; Ephesians 5:26; Titus 3:5; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 1 Peter 1:22-25).

Tongue Speaking Was Promised

We readily agree that there was in the early history of the religion of Christ, those who were given the ability to speak in languages which they had never learned. This is what “tongues” were. Such was promised by God and such was fulfilled as He promised to certain people for certain purposes which we shall examine momentarily. First let’s look at the promises. Jesus said in Mark 16:17, of certain believers, “they shall speak with new tongues.” The word translated “new” in regard to “tongues” is the Greek word (kainos). It suggests a newness of quality, not chronologically new. Therefore, the Lord shows that this “gift” would involve a new way of speaking; not a new kind of speaking previously unknown to mankind. Let us see how this promise was fulfilled. There are four cases involving folks who received the gift of “tongues” in the New Testament. One would think from what we hear today that this was the most important function in the church, and most everyone must have engaged in such! Not so. “tongue speaking” served a purpose. This purpose has been accomplished. Now we shall see the cases of “tongue speaking” in the New Testament.

The Apostles on Pentecost (Acts 2)

The kind of tongues spoken on Pentecost is clearly stated in the context of this chapter. “And they [the apostles ket] were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (V-4). Jews from many nations were gathered for the observance of this Jewish feast day. Hearing these tongues, they were confounded “because every man heard them speaking in his own language” (V-6). Their amazement is shown by the questions they asked as well, “Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? “And how hear we every man speaking in our own language wherein we were born?” (VS-7,8). Then, “we hear them speaking in our tongues the wonderful works of God.”(V-11). Clearly the miracle was these Galilaeans being empowered by the Holy Spirit to speak languages common to various nationalities there present.

At Caesarea (Acts 10)

The gift of tongues was given to the family of Cornelius. This was done as we later learn to show the Jews that God wanted the Gentiles to have the blessing of salvation the same as the Jews to whom the gospel was first preached. This event also satisfies the promise stated in (Joel 2; Acts 22:17). The “all flesh” simply meant both Jew and Gentile would experience this phenomenon. When these Jews along with Peter “heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God,” they were convinced (Acts 10:46). The apostle Peter reminds them that what happened here was not a common occurrence, he takes them back to the day of Pentecost, saying, “..the Holy Spirit fell (was poured out) on them, as on us [the apostles ket] at the beginning” (Acts 11:15). He further said, “God gave them the like gift as he did unto us...,”(Acts 11:17). What accompanied this outpouring on Pentecost? “..a sound from heaven as of a mighty rushing wind..cloven tongues like as of fire..sat upon each of them” (Acts 2:2-3). Do any of the pseudo (counterfeit) “tongue speakers” of today ever have, or even claim such a phenomenon as this? I know of none. Still, the signs erected advertising some Pentecostal sect’s place of assembly have a “tongue as of fire” drawn on them. Since Peter identifies this with what happened at Pentecost, the tongues in Acts 10 were languages just as they were then.

Tongues At Ephesus (Acts 19)

Paul found about twelve disciples at Ephesus whom he asked a question, “have you received the Holy Spirit since you believed? They responded, “we have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Spirit.” He then questioned them, saying, “Unto what then were you baptized?” When Paul learned they had been immersed with an immersion that was not the one taught in Jesus’ “Great Commission” he reminded them that their baptism which he identified as “John’s baptism” was of God’s people, Israel. It was “unto repentance” pointing to their Messiah in whom they must believe. We are told that hearing this, “they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Following this, Paul being an apostle gave them the gift of prophecy and tongue speaking by laying his hands on them; then they “spake with tongues, and prophesied” (Acts 19:1-7). An aside point is the fact that “baptism by Christ’s authority” is always of a penitent believer upon confession of his faith in Jesus Christ “in order to” the remission “forgiveness of sins.”

Many folks today have been baptized with a baptism not “in the name of Christ.” Such folks need to be taught the way of the Lord more perfectly and be obedient to the “one baptism” of the “Great Commission” (Ephesians 4:5; Luke 24:47).

Tongue Speakers At Corinth
1 Corinthians 12-13

So called “Pentecostals” today have a “field day” with these two chapters. They find things therein which simply aren’t there, if one reads with discernment and without prejudice. They find what they call ecstatic utterances. Some of them claim that Paul’s reference to “kinds of tongues” (1 Corinthians 12:10) implies a type of tongues beyond that of mere human languages. Thayer says “kinds” (genos) means “the aggregate of many individuals of the same nature, kind, sort, species. They are different kinds of human languages then of like nature. Some refer to (1 Corinthians 13:1), saying that here Paul implies a heavenly type of language or ecstatic utterance when he speaks of “tongues of men and angels.” I like what Wayne Jackson wrote about these two chapters in his paper (“Christian” Courier”):

“This cannot refer to superior or heavenly ecstatic utterance because, first of all, such would suggest that the Corinthians were blessed with a gift superior to what Christ’s apostles received on Pentecost. This is absurd. Moreover, these tongues, exercised without love (i.e., without an interpreter) were senseless sounds (sounding brass or clanging cymbal). The implication is, however, that when used in love, they were not senseless sounds! Actually, Paul’s argument is hyperbole (exaggeration for emphasis). See a similar usage in (Galatians 1:8). Paul neither literally expects angelic perversion of the gospel, nor his speaking in angelic tongues; he is simply stressing a point.

The Tongues of 1 Corinthians 14

McClintock and Strong note that some verses in 1 Corinthians 14 “have given rise to the notion of a strange, ecstatic, inspired, unearthly language; but these all admit of different solution” (Vol. X, 463). The fact is, the gift of tongues was being abused at Corinth. It was exercised without love (13:1) by those who spoke to foreigners without benefit of a translator (V- 28), or who spoke simultaneously (V-27), thus creating confusion (V-33). With this situation in view, (1 Corinthians 14:2) is easier to understand. It might be paraphrased as follows: “He that speaks in a foreign language (which his audience cannot understand because no translator is present) speaks not unto men but unto God; for no man (of this alien audience) understands; but in the spirit he speaks mysteries (things which are hidden from the audience because of no interpreter).” There is no reason to view (1 Corinthians 14:2) as an allusion to ecstatic utterances. There are other indications in this chapter that the “tongues” were merely human languages. Note: (1). The tongue edified its user even as prophecy did the entire church (V-4), The difference was, the former frequently depended on a translator; the latter did not. To edify is to “build up.” If the prophet edified the church with intelligent words, we must conclude that the individual who edified himself with a tongue also used intelligent words. Note: (2). The word “interpret” (V-5) means to explain or to translate. See (Acts 9:36). It involves a language. Note: (3). The term “barbarian” (V-11) denotes one who speaks a foreign language. Compare (Acts 28:2) where those of Malta who spoke the Punic language are called barbarians. Note: (4). Tongues involved using “words” (V-19). Words (logous) suggests the “expression of thoughts” (W. E. Vine). Mere sounds do not! Note: (5). “Strange tongues” (heteroglossos) (V-21) are called “other tongues” in (Acts 2:4), and are identified as languages. Also, (1 Corinthians 14:21) is a quote from (Isaiah 28:11), where human languages are in view. And so, we may again emphatically state that the gift of tongues was simply the miraculous abilities to speak a foreign language.”

The Purpose of Tongues & Other Miracles

These supernatural abilities were “signs” designed to convince unbelievers of the heavenly origin of the religion of Christ. These signs were never intended to be an end within themselves, but were the means by which God bore testimony to the message of those who preached the gospel (Mark 16:15-20; 1 Corinthians 14:22; Hebrews 2:3,4; John 3:2). These things have been “written that we may believe...” (John 20:30-31). You and I believe on Jesus (if indeed we do) because of the testimony of those who saw His miracles and themselves “tasted of the heavenly powers”. These “signs” and miracles confirmed their word. To say that these signs are still available today, is to affirm that the Bible is not God’s final revelation to man. Rather than showing faith, to claim or demand “signs” such as tongue speaking and other miracles today, shows a lack of faith! If revelation has ceased (and it has ket) then so have the “signs or miracles” which accompanied it. God by His divine providence is still at work and is all powerful, but when He finished revealing His will and gave us the “perfect law of liberty,” when Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to “guide them into all truth” and “confirmed their word with signs and wonders following,” He changed his method of operation (James 1:25; John 16:7,12-13; Mark 16:20; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). The Holy Spirit works through agency today and not apart from the word of Christ (Ephesians 6:17).

No One Speaks In Tongues Today!

When Paul discussed the temporary nature of spiritual gifts, he said,”tongues shall cease..” Tongues were used in the revealing of God’s truth which came “in part” during the days of inspiration. But Paul said “when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away” (1 Corinthians 13:9-10). Literally the passage says “when the perfect thing comes” (V-10). I visited a Greek scholar to ask about this once. He pointed out this fact, and added, “Christ was never called a “thing” and so it cannot be speaking of when Christ returns.” Paul’s entire analogy would break down if tongue speaking and other miracles are to continue until Christ comes. Why? Because Paul wrote of these “in part” things revelation and confirmation that was taking place, as “when I was a child...” as opposed to “when I became a man, I put away childish things.” Paul would have to continue as a child until Christ’s return if spiritual gifts are to last until then! See? 1 Corinthians 13:8, means exactly what it says. Gifts, including tongue speaking, have ceased from the face of the earth.

What About What I’ve Seen or Experienced?

I say without any fear of successful contradiction, you have never spoken in tongues. You have never heard anyone who did speak in tongues! Since the Scriptures show the purpose and duration of this spiritual gift has been satisfied, you will have to look for some other answer to what you think you have seen or done in this regard. As for me, I will take the word of Christ over any subjective claim of any “pentecostal” or anyone else who claims such ability by the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Earlier in this tract I mentioned the fact that those who claim direct guidance of the Holy Spirit, spiritual gifts and other miracles for today, invariably reject the very clear teachings of the word of Christ as regards how and when one becomes a Christian, a member of the church that Jesus built. This involves hearing and believing the gospel of Jesus Christ; repenting and being immersed into His death for the remission of alien sins (Acts 2:22-38,40-41; Romans 6:3-5; Galatians 3:26- 29; 1 Peter 1:22-25; Mark 16:15-16). These folks are found in various denominational bodies all claiming direct guidance of the Holy Spirit, yet are at odds regarding many doctrinal points. God is not the “author of confusion..” (1 Corinthians 14:33).

Read What W. E. Vine Wrote Commenting on (1 Corinthians 13:8-10), W.E. Vine a noted Greek scholar said:

“There is no evidence of the continuance of this gift after Apostolic times nor indeed in the later times of the Apostles themselves; this provides confirmation of the fulfillment in this way of 1 Corinthians 13:8, that this gift would cease in the churches, just as would ‘prophecies’ and ‘knowledge’ in the sense of knowledge received by immediate supernatural power. The completion of the Holy Scriptures has provided the churches with all that is necessary for individual and collective guidance, instruction, and edification” (W.E. Vine Dictionary IV, p.143).

My friend, it is a serious matter to make a claim that runs contrary to the teaching of the inspired New Testament writers. When folks wrest the Scriptures, Peter said it is “unto their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:16; Galatians 1:6-11; 2 John 9-11; John 12:48; Revelation 22:18-19).

Don't forget, "tongues" were actual languages spoken by someone. Those whom the Lord empowered to speak in "tongues" were speaking a language they had not learned by the power of the Holy Spirit. This served to cause folks to listen to their message. Today, "faith comes by hearing" and not by seeing a miracle (Romans 10:17; John 20:30-31).

Some of the finest people I have ever met are members of religious organizations who claim this "Pentecostal experience" is still in evidence among them. Even if this was so, they would be in error because of the way they behave themselves in their assemblies. See (1 Cor. 14:26-28). Contact the one who gave you this tract for further study on this, or any other Bible subject.

By Kenneth E. Thomas

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