Index To All Six Sections
Ch. 1. Tongues - Introduction: Deception in The Church. The Holy Spirit in The Old and New Testaments. The 'Second Blessing' and the 'Initial Evidence' doctrine. The Controversy and It's Importance
Ch. 2. Tongues In The Gospels and Acts: The Purpose of Tongues in The New Testament. Mark 16:17. Speaking in Tongues in The Book of Acts. Pentecost - Distinguishing Factors. What All Three Occurrences Had in Common. Not Everyone Spoke in Tongues On Pentecost. Was the Spirit Given Before Pentecost?
You Are Here Ch. 3. Tongues In Corinthians: The overall message of 1 Corinthians 14. Disregarding Most of What Paul Said About The Gift of Tongues. How Important Were Tongues in The New Testament?
Ch. 4. Tongues - A Known Language?: A Known Language or Unintelligible Utterances on and after Pentecost. Unknown Languages or Ecstatic Speech?. Tongues of Angels? Ignoring Matthew 6:7
Ch. 5. Tongues - What Spirit?: Neither Tongues nor Erratic Movements are Restricted to Born Again Christian Believers. How Did a Different Spirit Infiltrate The Church? - A Brief History of Pentecostalism May Provide The Answer. Voodoo. Circumstantial Evidence? Common Signs of Demon Possession. Comparing the Lwa with New Testament Demonic Possession.
Ch. 6. Tongues - Conclusion: According to The Bible Who Receives God's Holy Spirit? According to The Bible How Does One Receive God's Spirit? What It Means To Have The Spirit of God Dwelling In Us. The Gifts of The Spirit. Why People Don't Speak In Tongues?
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1 Corinthians - The Gift of Tongues
We need to pay attention to the overall message of 1 Corinthians 14.
Disregarding Most of What Paul Said About The Gift of Tongues.
Not All Christians Speak In Tongues, It is Not The Most Desirable Gift, No Interpreter - No Tongues, Tongues Was A Sign to Unbelievers,
Speak In Turns, Do Everything Decently and In Order Lest Outsiders Think You Are All Mad
How Important Were Tongues in The New Testament?
1 Corinthians - The Gift of Tongues
It is clear that when people spoke in tongues after receiving the Holy Spirit, they were communicating with God in the form of prayer, praise etc. For example, on Pentecost, the disciples were "speaking of the mighty deeds of God" in the various languages of the multitude present but when Peter stood up to preach to the crowd in verse 14, he did so in Greek. - the one language common to everyone present. In Acts 10, when the Holy Spirit was poured out on Cornelius and his household, the Romans were magnifying God in languages that they had never learned.
However, as said earlier, the gift of tongues is when a person is moved by the Father to speak in tongues, either privately or in a public church service or other Christian gathering. As Paul wrote,
For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God; for no one understands, but in his spirit he speaks mysteries. But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation. (1 Corinthians 14:2-3 NASB)
Disregarding this verse leads to a very significant misunderstanding which is that tongues is a miraculous method of communicating with our fellow humans, rather than God.
Because this gift is given strictly for the building up of the church, there are very strict, but largely ignored, guidelines governing how it is used. But first, one has to ask....
Why Only The Corinthians?
Why didn't Paul bring up the subject of tongues in his letters to any church other than the one in Corinth?
The answer is not that difficult to figure out if you pay attention to the overall message of 1 Corinthians 14.
Paul was not praising those in the congregation that had the gift of tongues, but was correcting how they were using the gift. The Corinthians, a seemingly rather exuberant and often unruly bunch, seemed quite enamored with spiritual gifts, particularly the gift of tongues. While there was nothing wrong with their interest, they were apparently not only over-emphasizing tongues at the expense of other gifts (particularly prophecy), but were apparently using tongues incorrectly. Which is why the apostle put in a lot of time and effort making sure they understood the reason for tongues and how it was to be used.
Hopefully, the Corinthians paid more heed to Paul's instructions than we do.
Disregarding Most of What Paul Said About The Gift of Tongues.
It is completely mystifying to me as to how so many people will pick up on a skewed interpretation of passages such as "tongues of angels" (next chapter) but, at the same time, flagrantly ignore everything else Paul said. For example,
1) Not All Christians Speak In Tongues
Paul was exceedingly clear that do NOT all believers speak in tongues. This made evident in chapter 12 when Paul talked about the distribution of spiritual gifts and unambiguously stated that not all Christians were given the same gift.
But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. (1 Corinthians 12:7-10 NASB)
In fact, he went on to say that he would show the Corinthians a more excellent way than the gifts. "No" being the obvious answer to the questions
All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? All do not have gifts of healing, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they? But earnestly desire the greater gifts. And I show you a still more excellent way. (1 Corinthians 12:29-31 NASB)
How and when the Lord distributes these gifts is His prerogative which was emphasized by the author of Hebrews
But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills. (1 Corinthians 12:11 NASB)
how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will. (Hebrews 2:3-4 NASB)
2) Not The Most Desirable Gift:
Although Paul himself spoke in tongues, and wrote that he wished that all the church did, he never once indicated that tongues was a must have for all believers. Much to the contrary, he placed far greater value on prophecy because, as he said, he who prophesies edifies the church. Prophecy is better for the church as a whole.
His very clear advice was that the Corinthians should desire to prophesy, rather than speak in tongues.
(1) Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. (2) For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God; for no one understands, but in his spirit he speaks mysteries. (3) But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation. (4) One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church. (5) Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues, but even more that you would prophesy; and greater is one who prophesies than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may receive edifying. (1 Corinthians 14:1-5 NASB)
3) No Interpreter - No Tongues
Paul was also very clear that, in a public assembly, no more than two or three could use the gift of tongues at one time, but should there be no interpreter present they were to keep silent.
What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation (Gk. hermeneia). Let all things be done for edification. If anyone speaks in a tongue, it should be by two or at the most three, and each in turn, and one must interpret; but if there is no interpreter, he must keep silent in the church; and let him speak to himself and to God. (1 Corinthians 14:26-28 NASB)
The reason is stated in v. 14, "For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful." In other words, no one can be elevated, enlightened, or uplifted if they cannot understand what they themselves, or someone else is saying. It is no wonder that Paul said it is better to speak five words with understanding than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue. Thus, it is the responsibility of the one who speaks in tongues to pray that he might also be able to interpret.
Note that speaking and interpreting can be done by the same person. The following verse does not say that the speaker should pray that someone else interpret.
Therefore let one who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. (1 Corinthians 14:13-14 NASB)
As an interesting by-the-way, the Greek word hermeneia is presumably derived from Hermes who, in Greek mythology, was said to be the messenger from the gods who delivered messages from Olympus to the mortal world. In the Roman version, the god Mercury was identified with Hermes (both wore winged shoes and carried a staff) and also seen as a messenger. It is probably because Paul was the chief speaker, that the people of Lystra called him Mercury. They apparently believed that the messenger Mercury had come down to them in the likeness of men. (Acts 14:11-12)
But I digress.
One has to ask why tongues on Pentecost required no interpreter, but tongues in the Corinthian church did. The answer seems relatively simple.
Pentecost: While we are not told how many of the 120 people gathered in the Upper Room on Pentecost spoke in tongues, the impression is that many, if not all of them did. Apparently, there were enough disciples to cover all the languages and dialects spoken by the multilingual gathering of people. As it says in Acts 2:6, "...every man heard them speak in their own language."
Corinth: Because of its geographical location and commercial prosperity Corinth must have been a very cosmopolitan town - the church meetings attended by a number of people from diverse linguistic backgrounds. However, the two or three persons who could to speak at one time may not have covered all the languages and dialect spoken by the people present - hence the need for an interpreter. If one person spoke in a particular language or dialect, at best, it would have been understood by only a few.
4) Tongues Was A Sign to Unbelievers:
Paul made it clear that the gift of tongues was for a sign for those who did not believe, which is exactly what happened on Pentecost.
So then tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophecy is for a sign, not to unbelievers but to those who believe. (1 Corinthians 14:22 NASB)
The non-believer has to understand what is being said and, at the same time, realize that the speaker has no knowledge of the language used. This is a 'sign' that something miraculous has taken place. Which brings up the question of how many people, if any, have ever been converted by the incomprehensible gibberish that comes out of people's mouth's in the modern church.
5) Speak In Turns:
Paul had a great deal of concern for decorum. In verse 27, he limited the number who may speak in tongues at any one time to two or three, who must take turns. They are to make their contribution in sequence and not all speak at one time.
If anyone speaks in a tongue, it should be by two or at the most three, and each in turn, and one must interpret; but if there is no interpreter, he must keep silent in the church; and let him speak to himself and to God. (1 Corinthians 14:27-28 NASB)
And why was this?
6) Do Everything Decently and In Order Lest Outsiders Think You Are All Mad:
Paul told the Corinthians that a non believer who heard numerous people all speaking in tongues at the same time would probably run for their lives thinking the entire congregation to have lost their collective minds.
Therefore if the whole church assembles together and all speak in tongues, and ungifted men or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are mad? (1 Corinthians 14:23 NASB)
In fact, he closed this topic with the words
Even today, many who are not familiar with speaking in tongues are often understandably perplexed, disturbed, or flat out incredulous when they first witness this phenomenon that often takes place in an intensely emotional religious atmosphere.
Certainly decency and order are not the words that come to mind when confronted with many of today's modern charismatic church services, which all too often deteriorate into literal bedlam. The pastor or some other leader will often be yelling and pleading with God to send down His Holy Spirit. This is often accompanied by feverish prayer, hymn singing, jumping up and down, hand clapping, and repetitious words or phrases, such as "Glory, Hallelujah!", or simply "Jesus".
If that wasn't enough, those who 'receive the Holy Spirit' can have what looks suspiciously like convulsions. They jerk, twitch, and fall on the floor in all manner of positions, some of which can be seen as woefully immodest. Some lie motionless on the floor for long periods of time , others get fits of the giggles that they actually call "holy Laughter" and, what I find truly horrifying, some people scream like they are being tortured. See Chapter Five
People who participate in meetings that ignore all the above are either sadly ignorant of what the Word of God teaches, or have placed denominational teaching above the New Testament.
The so called "holy laughter" starts at about the 5:15 mark in this video and quickly switches to another meeting which you can watch if you have the stomach for it.
How Important Were Tongues in The New Testament?
Another factor we need to look at is whether or not the importance and emphasis placed on the gift of tongues by so many Charismatic and Pentecostal churches today is derived from the New Testament. The gifts of the Spirit in general are mentioned in several places in the New Testament. The first list of gifts in Romans 12 does not mention tongues at all.
Romans 12: 6-8: Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. (NASB)
The other two, especially 1 Corinthians 12: 28-30, appear to list the gifts in some sort of order of importance, yet tongues is listed last in both places.
1Corinthians 12:8-10: For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. (NASB)
1 Corinthians 12: 28-30: And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues. All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they? But earnestly desire the greater gifts. And I show you a still more excellent way. (NASB)
How then is any of this compatible with the claim that if one has not spoken in tongues, one has not been baptized in the Holy Spirit?
According to the New Testament it is the fruit of the Spirit that indicates ones standing before God. Only those who produce good fruit will enter God's Kingdom [See for example Matthew 7:15-20, Matthew 12: 33-37, Galatians 5:22-23]. No such promise is made to those that speak in tongues or demonstrate any other gifts. In fact, the people Jesus spoke of below had impressive spiritual accomplishments - they prophesied, cast out demons, and performed miracles. Yet what the Lord's judgment on them was very chilling.
"Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.' (Matthew 7:22-23 NASB)
Very clearly, no supernatural ability amounts to a hill of beans if unaccompanied by obedience to our Lord's commandments. See for example John 14:21 and 15:10.
Also See Cessationism.. or Have the Spiritual Gifts Ceased?
Much of the charismatic movement is anti-intellectual, with people literally being told not to think or study, but to simply feel and experience. They believe that God supernaturally guides them through their lives and all they need is the occasional verse with scant regard paid to whether it is in context or not. Using discernment, or even comparing what is being said and taught with the Scriptures is seen as 'quenching the Holy Spirit' and 'putting God in a box'. On the other hand, is it true that the "miraculous" gifts such as tongues, miracles, word of knowledge, healing and prophecy were given as affirmation of God's revelation, but were withdrawn once the church was established, either with the completion of the New Testament canon, or the death of John the last apostle?
Continue On To Part IV - Were Tongues a Known Language in The New Testament HERE