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Tongues in the New Testament?

Seven Statements on Biblical Tongues

Are Speaking in Tongues a Requirement for Justification or Sanctification?

 1) If tongues are the ultimate spiritual gift and the ultimate witness of the Spirit’s work in the life of the believer, then why is it mentioned only three times in the book of Acts, only one of the epistles, and never in the Gospels?

  • Acts 2, 10, 19 are the only clear times recorded in Scripture that people spoke in tongues in the book of Acts.
  • In Acts 2, the only ones that we know spoke in tongues were the apostles.
  • In the three gift lists in the NT, tongues are only mentioned in 1 Corinthians.  This is an earlier epistle, so tongues were already in the process of ceasing. Notice in Romans 12 a parallel passage to I Corinthians 12, it is never mentioned.  Paul does not mention this gift as well as the other sign gifts that accompany it.  This is consistent with the history of Acts and the statement that tongues would cease. 

Romans 12:3-11 “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness. Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord.”

  •  The gift of tongues is never mentioned again in any of the epistles.  There are not even hints of its use again in the New Testament. 

 2) If tongues are the ultimate spiritual gift and the ultimate witness of the Spirit’s work in the life of the believer, then why is this gift not given to every believer?

  •  Not every believer had the gift of speaking in tongues.

I Corinthians 12:4-11 “Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of **healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of **miracles; to another prophecy; to another **discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of **tongues; to another the **interpretation of tongues: But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally **as he (God) will.”

  •  Not every believer was to desire speaking in tongues.

I Corinthians 14:1-12, 19 “Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy. 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. But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort. He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church. I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying. Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine? And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped? For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air. There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification. Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me. Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church… 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.”

3) If tongues are the ultimate spiritual gift and the ultimate witness of the Spirit’s work in the life of the believer, then why is it presented as a gift that will cease, while other gifts will endure, and are to be pursued and exercised in the body?

  •  Tongues will cease, and it would be logical to assume that they would cease when their purpose as stated in I Corinthians 14 ceased.

I Corinthians 13:8-13 “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. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”

  •  There is an obvious transition away from signs and wonders in the history of Acts, because their need ceased during that time period.
  • This follows the flow of the giving of the Gospel and was symbolic of the transition of the Gospel going from the Jews to the Gentiles.
  • We are commanded to seek to edify the church, as well as pursue those gifts that will not fail.

I Corinthians 12:28-14:9 “And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of **tongues. Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?  Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? But **covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way. 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. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. **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. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. **And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy. 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. But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort. He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church. I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying. Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine? And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped? For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken?  For ye shall speak into the air.”

4) If tongues are the ultimate spiritual gift and the ultimate witness of the Spirit’s work in the life of the believer, then why is no man ever commanded to speak in tongues in order to receive his salvation, to authenticate his salvation, or to demonstrate a superior level of spiritual maturity?

  •  Believers and certainly unbelievers are never commanded to speak in tongues.
  • Speaking in tongues is never given as a requirement or as a demanded authentication of a man’s salvation. 
  • Speaking in tongues is never mentioned as a litmus test to authenticate one’s salvation or to demonstrate one’s spiritual maturity.
  •  I John was written to give assurance of one’s salvation, yet speaking in tongues is never mentioned in this book. 

I John 2:3-11 “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked. brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning. Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth. He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.”

  • In Galatians 5, Paul lists the fruit of the Spirit, or the fruit that only the Spirit can produce in the life of the believer, yet speaking in tongues is never mentioned in this passage.  

Galatians 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”

5) If tongues are the ultimate spiritual gift and the ultimate witness of the Spirit’s work in the life of the believer, then why is there virtually no record of it in church history from the time of the early church, until the 20th century?

  •  If tongues are for the entire church age, including today, then there should be an obvious pattern of tongues throughout church history, but there is none.  We only find sporadic outbreaks of them that are associated with questionable movements.
  • There is no indication of Christ speaking in tongues; there is no record in church history of other saints speaking in tongues.  If speaking in tongues is necessary in getting closer to God, then all the famous saints of old fall short.
  • This has been the majority view throughout church history.
  • The great men of church history say nothing of this gift in their lives.

6) If tongues are the ultimate spiritual gift and the ultimate witness of the Spirit’s work in the life of the believer, then why do many apply its God given purpose in error?

  • Tongues were a sign of judgment to unbelieving Israel (better explanation).
  • Remember that Acts is book of transition.
  • There is a shift from the program because of Israel’s rejection (Luke 21).  Jesus said that Jerusalem would be trodden down under the Gentiles.  Peter’s Pentecost sermon, told Israel to save themselves from this crooked and perverse generation.
  • Therefore, speaking in tongues would be God’s grace – giving unbelieving Israel a chance to repent and accept Christ.
  • Corinthians 14:21 quotes Isaiah 28:11 which is a prophesy of a coming invasion of the Assyrian army.
  • Isaiah’s point was that hearing the speech of the Assyrians was a sign that his prophesy would be fulfilled.
  • Paul says that tongues are a sign of judgment.
  • In I Corinthians 14:22 Paul beings with the conjunction “so then,” – he is going to draw an application from Isaiah 28. Tongues are for a sign.
  • A sign is something that authenticates something else. It points to something, and is a sign to the unbeliever.

I Corinthians 14:20-23 “Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men. 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: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe. 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?”

Isaiah 28:9-19 “Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little: 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. Wherefore hear the word of the LORD, ye scornful men, that rule this people which is in Jerusalem. Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us: for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves: Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste. Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place. And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it.”

7) If tongues were for today (which I don’t believe because their purpose has ceased), then why do people disregard clear instruction for the use of the gift of tongues in the early church when its exercise was both legitimate and necessary?

  •  Even if one were to hold the position that tongues are for today, they would be required to follow the biblical instructions that were to control the exercise of the gift:
  • Paul wrote the church of Corinth to rebuke them for their use of speaking in tongues, not to commend them.

I Corinthians 14:4-9 “He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church. I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying. Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine? And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped? For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air. There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification. Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me. Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.”

  • God’s Spirit and His Word cannot contradict one another.
  • Paul commanded the church to let all things be done unto edification of the body.
  • The context of these commands were in the body, so these are to be done in the church.
  • Only two or at the most three may speak in tongues if it is done in the church.

I Corinthians 14:27 “If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret.”

  • If there is no interpreter of the language, there should be no speaking in tongues.

I Corinthians 14:28 “But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church;”

  • Women are not permitted to speak in tongues in the church, for it is a shame for them to speak in the church.    

I Corinthians 14:34-35 “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.”

  • Modern tongues does not resemble biblical tongues.  People are not speaking in a known language.  Even if we grant the two-fold view of tongues, which I do not hold, where is the language part; most often we find the ecstatic part.
  • Why are translators used? If Benny Hinn goes to Germany to preach, why does he need an interpreter from English to German?  If he claims to speak in tongues, why does he not speak the language of the people?
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