Speaking in Tongues
Some Important Questions

        One of the great questions of religion today is about speaking in tongues. We see many people who say that speaking in tongues is the sign of God's great power today just as it was in New Testament times. Others say you must speak in tongues to be saved. Still others say tongue speaking is no more for God's people. What does the Bible say? In this short tract, we cannot talk about every question or everything about tongue speaking. However, I think we need to ask ourselves some questions.

        Whenever we see something that people say is from the Bible, we must go to the Bible and see if it is so. For example, if some church says it is the church of the Bible, we should look at the Bible and compare this church to the Bible. Only the Bible can show us the truth. 2 Peter 1.3 says, "God has given us all things that concern life and godliness." We should not expect more today than what God has already given in his book the Bible. God has given all things in the Bible and we must study it carefully to be free. (2 Timothy 3.16-17: 2 Timothy 2.13: John 8.32.) Also, when I have some experience--a dream or a feeling---l must go to the Bible and see the truth of God. Only the Bible can be my guide. If someone says he has spoken in a tongue like they did in the Bible, he should be willing to go to the Bible and see if it is really the true thing. 1 Thessalonians 5.21: "Prove all things and hold strongly to the good."

        When we study the Bible carefully, we see that speaking in tongues in the Bible was the speaking of languages. The word that is translated "tongue" in the English versions means a language--a human, spoken language. The miracle was that the Apostles and other early Christians who spoke in tongues were speaking languages that they normally did not speak. When we look at Acts 2.1-11. we can see the real purpose for the tongues. Read those verses well. The Bible says that the Apostles were speaking in tongues (verse 4) and "dialects" (verse 6) and every man understood what the Apostles were saying (verses 6 and 11). The tongues (languages) were given miraculously to the Apostles to make it possible for them to speak to the understanding of the multitudes that day. Also, the people would be interested by this great event (verse 6). The Holy Spirit gave this gift of tongues to the Apostles (verse 14) So they could preach the Gospel to the mixed multitudes. To speak in tongues was to miraculously speak human languages that could be understood by the people. If a Twi man could suddenly speak Ewe without ever having studied Ewe or heard it before, we would say that is a wonder.

        We read of other cases of tongue speaking: Acts 10.44-48, the case of Cornelius and his people; and Acts 19.1-7, the twelve disciples of Ephesus. In these cases, we see that the power of tongue speaking was used by God to show his power just as Jesus had promised. (Mark 16.17.) Cornelius and all the people in his house miraculously spoke in languages (Acts 10.24-27,44-46) before they were even Christians. They had not yet received the indwelling of the Spirit in water baptism. (Acts 2.38.) They were not yet Christians. So, we learn that God used this sign of tongues in that case not to convince Cornelius, but to convince Peter and the Jews that Gentiles (non-Jews) can also be saved through the Gospel. This is what Peter understood and said--Acts 10,47-48; 11.1-18. (Read it.) Peter realized that God had poured out his Spirit on Pentecost for all flesh, truly for all flesh, including Gentiles (Acts 2.16-21,33;11.15.18.) and that all people can equally be saved in Christ. God gave Cornelius and all the others the power to speak in tongues to convince the Jews that Gentiles can be saved. Speaking in tongues was not part of their conversion, but it was to show that the Gentiles also had the right to be Christians. This is what Peter and the Jewish brethren understood and so should we. Speaking in tongues did not save them and it was not a sign of their salvation (they did it before they were saved). It was a sign to Peter to accept the Gentiles. In Acts 19.1-7, we find that the Apostle Paul properly taught and baptized some men, then he laid his hands on them and they received certain powers to speak in languages and prophesy. Thus, God worked through those Christians.

        We also read in 1 Corinthians 12-14 about tongue speaking as one of the gifts of the Spirit. (12.9,28-30; 13.1,8; 14.1-28.) The church at Corinth was having much confusion over tongue speaking and other gifts. Some people were thinking that they were better Christians because they had received the gift of tongues. Paul said that we all are equally partakers of the Spirit even though we do not all speak in tongues. (12.13.) He argued in 12.29.30 that we do not all have the gifts, but we are all equal in the Spirit. So, tongue speaking was not so important and should not be considered greater than the other works.

        In chapter 13, Paul said tongues will cease. (verse 8.) When? When "that which is perfect is come then that which is in part shall be done away." (verse 10.) Is that the coming of Christ? Was the gift of tongues to continue until Jesus comes? No. That which is perfect cannot mean Jesus because it is in the "neuter" case (Not male. Not female) in the original Greek of Paul's writings. It means the perfect thing, not the perfect person. What is the perfect thing? The fully revealed New Testament. You see, God was giving those special gifts (tongues, prophecies, healings. etc.) to reveal his truth, guide the church and spread the Gospel until he could completely reveal all and close his revelation to man. (Read carefully Hebrews 2.3-4: Ephesians 4.8-15: 1 Corinthians 13.8-13.) Then the church would not be in a state of childhood and immaturity of miracles (1 Cor. 13.11-12) and dependence on wonders and signs that could be easily imitated by Satan. (2 Cor. 11.14.) But the church would be guided by the complete written will of God that all men could have to read and understand. Paul said the gifts were to last until the source of all unity could be fully revealed (Ephesians 4.11-15) and then they would cease. (1 Cor. 13.8.) To continue in a state of childhood would not be good for the church, yet to depend on such signs as tongues is what Paul said is childhood. Should we return to that state of childhood? James 1.25 says we have the perfect law of liberty in the Gospel. Let us continue in it.

        In 1 Corinthians 14. Paul discussed the use of the gift of tongues at Corinth. He said that tongue speaking does not benefit the whole church (verses 4-6) unless there is interpretation. Those who had the gift of tongues were just trying to use it without considering the purpose of the gift and Paul said they were bringing in confusion. (verses 11-17.) Paul said he was not condemning the gift of tongues, only it must be used properly. (verses 18-19.) Then Paul explained that if they all just speak in tongues, the unbelievers will think they are mad (verse 23) and thus the purpose of tongues would be lost. To help them use tongues properly, Paul gave certain instructions. (verses 26-28.) The tongue speakers were to speak one at a time (by course) and no more than 3 could speak at all. There must be an interpreter. If no one is there to interpret, they must be silent. These rules were to help keep order in the assembly and glorify God. (14.33.)

We can see that tongue speaking had a great and powerful place in the New Testament church. But is this the tongue speaking we see today? Is it the same as in the Bible? I do not believe so.

  1. Is it like Acts 2.1.11? Where are the tongues of fire? Where is the sound of a rushing wind? Why can the multitudes today not all understand the tongues like Acts 2? It is not the same as Acts 2. People today cannot understand the tongues that are spoken; therefore, the tongues are not the same as Acts 2.
  2. Is it like Acts 19.1-7? Where is the Apostle to lay his hands on us? The true Apostle must be one who was an eyewitness to the resurrection of Jesus. (Acts 1.12-26.) See also Acts 8.14-18 where the invisible gifts of the Spirit were given through the Apostles' hands. (Simon the Sorcerer could see that through the Apostles' hands the powers were given and he wanted that power to be able to pass on the gifts. It was something that he could see came through the Apostles' hands.) Where is the Apostle to lay his hands on us? Tongues today are not like Acts 19.
  3. ls it like Acts 10.44-48? Does the gift of tongues come on non-Christians today? No. Where is the purpose of Acts 10 today to convince Jews of the equality of the Gentiles? Does everyone present get the gift of tongues today like happened at Cornelius house? (10.44.) It is not like Acts 10 today.
  4. Is it like 1 Corinthians 12-14 today? Paul said the tongue speakers must speak not more than 3 and one at a time. Also, an interpreter must be there to interpret or the tongue speaker must be silent. Is that what we see today? I do not think so. My friends, tongues of today are not the same as the tongues of the Bible.
        We can easily see that what people say today is tongue speaking is not the same as what they did in the New Testament church. When we go back to the Bible--always go back to the Bible--we can see it is not as people are doing today. If it is not the same as the Bible, then how can they know it is from God? They cannot know it is from God. Remember, not all powers and signs come from God--Read Matthew 24.24 and 2 Thessalonians 2.9-12. God warns us very severely about looking for signs and wonders. Satan can also make signs and wonders. (2 Corinthians 11.14.) But some people will run after anything that shows itself wonderful. My friends, we must ask ourselves, "Is God in this thing?" Only the Bible can be our guide. There are many powers, both good and evil. We cannot trust wonders. We must trust the truth--the truth that God has revealed in his word.

         No, what people do today and call it tongues is just not the same as we read in the Bible. "0h, preacher, you are condemning me?" Some people might say, "0h. but I have actually spoken in tongues. Am I a liar? You are saying I am a Liar?" No, I am not saying you have lied. It is not in my power or will to judge or condemn, but we must hunger for truth. There is much confusion on this topic. We must see what does the Bible say. My only purpose is to suggest to you to take a very careful look at what the Bible says about tongue speaking and then look very carefully at what people are doing today. Is it the same? No. It is not the same.

        So, we have taken a journey and what is our final destination? Only you can decide where you will stop on this journey. Much more study is needed on this topic. Decide to study your Bible carefully and with prayer. Examine everything and every teaching by the light of God's word. (1 John 4.1.) Many false prophets are in the world. We all need God's light to direct us. This short writing cannot answer every question, but we invite you to study God's word with us at the churches of Christ. We want to study God's word only. Let us put our own wishes and pleasures aside. Let us not trust wonders or personal experiences only. Let us look to God's word as the only light.

"Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path." (Psalm 119.105)

"He who trusts in his own heart is not wise." (Proverbs 28.26.)