Is Speaking in Tongues for Today?

“Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. [8] 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. [9] For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. [10] But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.” – 1 Cor. 13:8-10

We learned in our last study in I Cor 13, that verse 10’s reference to something “Perfect” coming was speaking of the revealed written Word of God., after which the gifts of prophecy, Knowledge and tongues (which indeed were necessary in the absence of the written Word of God, and to validate the Gospel message, and the Gospel messengers who preached the message) would no longer be necessary, once the written Word of God was revealed.

Tongues Speaking

The modern Pentecostal movement, from its inception at the turn of the century, has emphasized the belief that all of the spiritual gifts mentioned in the N.T. are to be exercised today, including the special sign gifts which were given to the Apostles.

One of the gifts frequently exalted in the Pentecostal movement is the gift of tongues. In fact, the Pentecostal movement is often called “the tongues movement” because of this emphasis.

There are 5 common errors promoted by the Pentecostal movement pertaining to tongues. Not all Pentecostal churches promote all of these errors, but these are very commonly held.

ERROR #1

Tongues is the Evidence of Holy Spirit Filling

WHAT THE BIBLE TEACHES

  1. In the book of Acts there are many mentions of Christians being filled with the Spirit, but only one time is tongues speaking mentioned. It is ridiculous, then, to try to make tongues speaking the primary evidence of Holy Spirit filling.
  2. The evidence of the filling of the Holy Spirit in Ephesians 5-6 does not mention tongues at all. The marks of Spirit filling are said to be spiritual relationships (Eph. 5:19,21-33; 6:1-9), worship (Eph. 5:19), resisting Satan (Eph. 6:11-18), and an effective prayer life (Eph. 5:18-20).

To connect spiritual gifts with Spirit filling is unscriptural. 1 Co. 12:13 says all have been baptized by the Holy Spirit, but verse 30 of the same chapter says not all speak in tongues.

ERROR #2

Tongues Speaking is for Every Christian

In most Pentecostal groups every Christian is encouraged to speak in tongues. The pressure to do this varies from group to group, but tongues speaking is definitely upheld as something desirable and important for the Christian life.

WHAT THE BIBLE TEACHES

The N.T. says that different gifts are given to different Christians, and no one gift is given to every believer. Paul plainly taught that not every Christian spoke in tongues even in the first century (1 Co. 12:4,7-12,28-30).

ERROR #3

Tongues Should be Sought by the Christian

Though there are exceptions, most Pentecostal churches teach that the Christian should seek to speak in tongues. In fact, the pressure to do so can be intense. Countless books have been written purporting to teach people how to speak in tongues.

WHAT THE BIBLE TEACHES

  1. Paul told the Corinthian believers that they should covet the “best gifts” (1 Co. 12:31). He listed the gifts in order of importance in verses 28-30 and tongues was at the bottom! It is strange that a gift which the Apostles considered the lest important has become so exalted in the modern Pentecostal movement.
  2. The disciples did not seek to speak in tongues. In every instance in which Christians spoke in tongues in the N.T. the tongues were sovereignly given. In no instance were the recipients trying to speak in tongues.
  3. The Bible never tells the Christian to seek to speak in tongues. Not once is there such instruction given by the Apostles.
  4. There is no instruction in the Bible about HOW to speak in tongues. If tongues speaking was important for the Christian life and if it was a good thing for every Christian to speak in tongues, surely God would have plainly instructed us in how to do such a thing!
  5. The Pentecostal/Charismatic method of speaking in tongues is unscriptural and dangerous. When a person asks how tongues can be received. They are instructed to simply open their mouth and start muttering words without using normal language. God is supposed to take control of the tongue.

There is not a hint of such a practice in the N.T.

The Bible warns Christians that there are deceiving spirits which attempt to influence Christians and that can appear as angels of light and ministers of God (2 Co. 11:13-15; Mt. 24:24).

This answers the second question of why are people still able to receive this gift, if there is no need for it?

Paul warned the Corinthians that they were in danger of receiving false spirits because of their carnal, undiscerning condition (2 Co. 11:3,4).

The Christian cannot be possessed by evil spirits, but we can certainly be influenced by them. Thus the Bible warns us to be sober and vigilant (1 Pe. 4:7; 5:8).

ERROR #4

Tongues is a Heavenly Prayer Language

When challenged that the modern tongues spoken today is not a known earthly language, as it was in Bible times, it is replied that they are speaking in a heavenly prayer language.

WHAT THE BIBLE TEACHES

The tongues spoken in the early churches were real earthly languages (Ac. 2:6-10).

Those that heard the disciples speak in tongues on that day said, Acts 2:11 “… we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.

Biblical tongues were languages, not some sort of unintelligible mutters.

ERROR #5

Tongues is for Personal Edification

Tongues speaking in the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement is said to be something the Christian can do privately to edify himself.

WHAT THE BIBLE TEACHES

God plainly tells us the purpose for tongues. It was to give a sign to those who needed the Gospel in their language (1 Co. 14:20-22).