On Pentecost 31 A.D. when the Holy Spirit fell upon the brethren, many began talking in languages that they had not previously known, speaking to people from the various nations gathered for the Feast in their own native languages.
When Peter being one person, stood up and spoke to the whole assembly of many different language speakers; and each one heard Peter in his own native language. The miracle was not in the speaking, but in the HEARING of one speaker by every person with different natural language.
In BOTH cases the languages spoken were natural human languages and were NOT some kind of emotionally generated ecstatic utterances.
The article will explain Paul’s instructions to the Corinthians, and as many facets of the Gift of “Speaking in Tongues” as we have found in the scriptures.
1 Corinthian 12:7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. 12:8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; 12:9 To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; 12:10 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:
There are many gifts of the Spirit, 1 Corinthians 12 is a only a partial list of them. There are many members in the Ekklesia but not every person has every gift of God’s Spirit. Each member is given gifts as it pleases God so that the gifts may be used for the good of the whole body.
Of all of the various spiritual gifts, some people tend to focus on the “gift of tongues” which was one of the more obvious outward gifts of the Spirit as we see demonstrated in the early church. In our day this gift seems to be very rare in the Ekklesia.
Meanwhile in some segments of mainstream Christianity such as the Charismatic Pentecostal Movement, speaking in tongues is profoundly misunderstood and that misunderstanding is one of their most prominent doctrines, more so than obeying God and His Word.
They believe that the ability to speak in “tongues” refers to ecstatic utterances in some sort of heavenly language (according to their misunderstanding of it) is proof that one has God’s Holy Spirit or that it is a sign that one has received the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit”.
But how does the Bible define “speaking in tongues” and how was it demonstrated and used in the early church? What are the reasons that God would give this gift to His Ekklesia?
In Mark 16 Jesus prophesied that the gift of speaking in tongues would be granted to His disciples and would be a part of preaching the Gospel just as some other signs such as healing of diseases and the power to cast out demons. Jesus commissioned the disciples to go into all the world to preach the Gospel and at the same time He foretold that these signs would accompany that preaching. This is the only mention of the term “speaking in tongues” in all four books of the Gospels.
Mark 16:15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. 16:16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
16:17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues [various natural human languages]; 16:18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. 16:19 So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. 16:20 And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.
The rest of what the Bible has to say about the gift of speaking in tongues is in the book of Acts and in the letters to the Corinthians.
Pentecost 31 A.D.
It was on the Feast of Pentecost in 31 A.D. that the first recorded miracle of speaking in tongues took place.
Acts 2:1 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2:2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 2:3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. 2:4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
The Holy Spirit came in mighty power on that day and filled the whole house; it came with the sound of a rushing mighty wind and appeared as cloven tongues of fire that came upon each one that was sitting in the house. The passage says that all were filled with the Holy Spirit and they began to speak with other tongues.
Acts 2:9 Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, 2:10 Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, 2:11 Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues [language] the wonderful works of God. 2:12 And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this?
Acts 2:9-11 gives a list of the different countries that were represented by the men in attendance, each having their own language, who heard the message in their own native language. These people were in amazement for it was obvious that a miracle had occurred. They exclaimed “how hear we every man in our own tongue [language] , wherein we were born?”
This was the official beginning of the New Covenant, when God’s Spirit left the physical Temple to dwell ONLY in the called out; and it was introduced to the people that heard and saw the disciples on that day with certain signs, such as the appearance of fire as cloven tongues and the miraculous hearing of the Gospel message by means of the gift of tongues in which they heard that message in their own languages.
God’s Purposes For the Gift of Speaking in Tongues
This happened just as Jesus had said when He gave the disciples the commission to preach the Gospel to all the world and that they would speak with new tongues. Note that Jesus used the word “new” in combination with tongues (Mark 16:17) and Luke uses the word “other” in Acts 2:4. “New” means that the languages would be new to the ones that would speak them without having to learn them in the natural way. “Other” just means the languages would be “other” than the languages that they already knew but would be valid languages that those foreign to them spoke. This demonstration of the proper use of “tongues” is made very plain in the context of Acts 2:5-12.
The outside crowd of people knew that the Judean disciples were from Galilee and therefore expected that when these Galileans began to speak that they would hear them speak in the Galilean dialect. “Behold, are not all these which speak Galileans?” When each of these men heard the disciples speak in the language that they had understood from birth in their own nations, proclaiming to them “the wonderful works of God” they knew it had to be a miracle and they asked “what does this mean?”
These men’s hearing the disciples speak in their own distinct languages was truly an “attention getter”. When Peter stood up and explained that what they had witnessed was what Joel had foretold for the latter days, they knew exactly what he was talking about for they knew the Scriptures. This must have been incredible and marvelous news to them.
Peter than began to preach the Gospel message to them about Jesus Christ and how He came to save men and women from their sins and how they could receive the Holy Spirit.
Realizing that they were witnessing a miracle with one speaker being heard and understood by people of many different native languages, they were eager to hear what he had to say. After hearing his message about Jesus, they then asked Peter what was it that they should do to be saved. Peter told them to repent [stop sinning] and to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ and that they too would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit just as they had witnessed the disciples receiving it earlier that day. After hearing Peter’s message there were 3,000 people who were convicted and were baptized on that day of Pentecost.
Acts 2:12 And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this?
2:13 Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine. 2:14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: 2:15 For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. 2:16 But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; 2:17 And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: 2:18 And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy:
The miracle of tongues that these people witnessed that day in combination with the Gospel message, no doubt had a lot to do with their conversion;. Even though the people in the audience were of different lands and spoke different languages God used this hearing of Peter in their native languages to draw 3,000 men and women to become convicted in their minds that what they had experienced was a sign that what the disciples spoke of was from God and that the promises of God were coming true.
Acts 2:31 He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. 2:32 This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. 2:33 Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear.
2:34 For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, 2:35 Until I make thy foes thy footstool. 2:36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made the same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.
2:37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?
2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be Baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. 2:39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.
2:40 And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. 2:41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.
God was calling many of the people in the crowd worshiping on Pentecost at the Temple who had gathered because of the mighty wind, the fire and the speaking in many languages; to hear the apostles and they wholeheartedly believed the Gospel message and then wanted to receive the promises of God that Peter offered to them – speaking in his own language, but being heard and understood by speakers of all languages – if they would only repent [stop sinning] and be baptized.
That day 3000 of them accepted God’s call, were convicted in their hearts of their sins, and repented. These people, both men and women, had the atoning sacrifice of Jesus applied to their PAST sins and made a baptismal commitment to live in obedience to God for the rest of their lives. Thus the Ekklesia had a tremendous growth spurt in just one day with many new believers being added to it.
This chapter in Acts records the public outpouring of the Holy Spirit and after being filled with that Spirit, the disciples used the gift of speaking and being heard in various languages] [tongues] to preach the Gospel to many people from distant lands showing us the correct meaning of the term “speaking in tongues”.
Speaking in tongues is not natural and is a gift of God’s Holy Spirit, referring to speaking a language not natural to the speaker in addressing a crowd of a different language, or it refers to one speaker being heard and understood when speaking to a crowd of many different language speakers.
This demonstration was a clear example of speaking in tongues to preach the Gospel so that men of many different languages could understand what was being said thus enabling speakers of many different natural human languages to hear and learn about God from the one speaker at once; thus being convicted and baptized and receiving the opportunity to live forever in God’s Kingdom if they remained faithful until death.
The Greek word used for “tongues” in these verses is associated with similar terms that depict different countries such as “races”, “nationalities”, and “kindred”. In these verses, the word “tongues” always means “languages”.
The gift of tongues is simply the ability to speak in a language of another person without any personal knowledge of that language or ever having learned a language not natural to the speaker. The gift is for the purpose of proclaiming the Gospel message and teaching God’s word to a stranger or to foreigners as was done on this Feast of Pentecost in 31 A.D.
The gift of tongues [using various languages] to preach the Gospel was utilized mightily in the founding of the New Testament Church. This is truly a marvelous gift that God in His mercy gives to a few individuals to help those of foreign languages to hear and understand when they otherwise would not be able to.
The gift of speaking in tongues was given to those who were directly involved in preaching the gospel to those of foreign languages, and was not given to everyone. Indeed, since God is not the author of confusion in his revelations, and different people speaking in many languages at the same time in the same place would be confusion, as Paul himself tells us: The real miracle seems to be not in a confusion of speaking but that the hearers all heard in their native languages.
Acts 2 might show two different kinds of miracles involving tongues. One is the miracle of speaking words in other languages, as Isaiah spoke of; and the other is the miracle of understanding the words in a different language other than that being spoken.
While various others may have been speaking personally to people of different languages, and the various languages being spoken were initially taken for confused drunken babble by bystanders: When Peter spoke to them all in his one language each listener heard the same words of one man, Peter; in their own language.
Just an aside, could it be that this kind of special phenomenon will occur once again on a future day of Pentecost; the day when the Holy Spirit is poured out on all flesh at the start of the Millennium? When Christ is officially coronated as King of kings and the theocratic Kingdom of God begins over all the earth; will all nations hear the Word of God proclaimed to them in [through mass media] their own languages?
Joel 2:28 And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: 2:29 And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit. (See whole chapter of Joel 2)
From Acts 2 we come to see that the speaking in tongues is given for the purpose of helping people of other languages understand the Gospel message and the Word of God . This is the correct understanding of “speaking in tongues” rather than some strange misinterpretation of certain Scriptures that some uninformed persons teach: that the gift of tongues is a type of incoherent, incomprehensible gibberish that no one can understand.
The purpose of the gift of tongues is to make the message of God clear and understandable for all language speakers. It is not for the purpose of some kind of emotional ecstatic unintelligible utterances as some wrongly think.
The Gift of Tongues As A Sign
Miracles are not an indication of godliness, UNLESS those miracles are accompanied by teaching all people to diligently live by every Word of God and the personal example of the miracle worker in also living by every Word of God.
Corinthians 14:21 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. 14:22 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.
A secondary purpose of the gift of tongues is to make a visible and audible witness to those that are hearing, that the message is from God. We saw an example of this in Acts 2 and we see it again in Acts 10. In Acts 10 the sign of speaking in tongues was an indicator to Peter that God had granted the Gentiles the gift of the Holy Spirit the same as to the Jewish people. It was also a special sign that God was showing all in attendance at Cornelia’s house that God was now calling men of all nationalities and races to salvation along with the Jews.
Acts 10:44 While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. 10:45 And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. 10:46 For they heard them speak with tongues [hearing them speaking in Aramaic or Hebrew, and not in the Roman Latin], and magnify God. Then answered Peter, 10:47 Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?
In 1 Corinthians 14:21 Paul quotes Isaiah 28:11 and applies it to the use of speaking in tongues. In Isaiah, the prophet is talking about tongues in a somewhat negative sense, saying that even though God uses speakers that make the meaning of His words plain to them by speaking the messages to them in their own language (through the gift of tongues) they still will not listen to Him. In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul uses this as an illustration that the gift of tongues serves as a sign to unbelievers.
We quoted earlier from Mark 16 where Jesus states that signs will be associated with the proclaiming of the Gospel message and He also implies that these signs will show evidence that the words and the messages of the speaker are divine and come from God, therefore confirming that what is being said is true. They are a type of second witness.
Mark 16:15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. 16:16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. 16:17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues [new languages to preach the gospel to others in their native language]; 16:18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. 16:19 So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. 16:20 And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.
We read in the last two chapters in the Gospel of John where John records that Jesus did many signs, so many that they could not all be contained in John’s Gospel. In chapter 20 John plainly gives the reason for the signs, “that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.”
John 20:30 And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: 20:31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.
John 21:25 And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.
An example of a miracle used as a sign is the very first miracle that Jesus did in the presence of others when He of turned water into wine.
John 2:11 This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.
Why did He do this at the very start of His ministry? John tells us in the verse that it was to manifest His glory to his disciples, that they would believe that He was who He said He was, the Messiah that was prophesied to come from the very first book of the Bible in Genesis 3:15 with many more prophecies throughout the pages of the Old Testament.
The main purpose of this first miracle was to reveal His glory to His disciples with the result being that they would believe on Him and have faith that He was indeed the Messiah which was to come. (It may have had other metaphorical inferences as well for the turning of water into wine could symbolize many things, but we want to concentrate on the main obvious reason: of convicting the disciples at the beginning of their time of being with Jesus so that they would believe.)
Matthew 10:1 And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease.
When Paul and Barnabas entered the synagogue in Iconioum, they preached boldly about the Lord Jesus being the Messiah, about forgiveness of sins and the way of salvation; and the Lord backed them by doing miracles and signs through their hands as a witness that what they were teaching came from God.
Acts 14:1 And it came to pass in Iconium, that they went both together into the synagogue of the Jews, and so spake, that a great multitude both of the Jews and also of the Greeks believed. 14:2 But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles, and made their minds evil affected against the brethren. 14:3 Long time therefore abode they speaking boldly in the Lord, which gave testimony unto the word of his grace, and granted signs and wonders to be done by their hands.
Paul stated that signs had been performed among the people of Corinth as evidence that he truly was an apostle sent by God to teach them and to show them how to live for Christ.
2 Corinthians 12:12 Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.
And Paul had the gift of tongues [speaking many human languages] more than anyone in the congregation at Corinth. “I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all” (1 Corinthians 14:8).
Paul was not boasting about that fact, but rather was he trying to make the point that even though he had this spiritual gift of languages: the gift of “prophesying” [in the sense of inspired speaking] was far more important to use with each other, for by prophesying they were being edified and built up [prophesying meaning to teach, refute, reprove, admonish, comfort others]. Paul was emphasizing that the gift of tongues was to be used as a sign to unbelievers [strangers speaking different languages] and not to be used amongst themselves [who all spoke the same language] when unbelievers were not present and/or the gift was not needed. This instruction was necessary because some had become vain and proud thinking they were better than others because they could speak several languages.
In this chapter Paul is trying to explain the difference between speaking in tongues [languages] as a sign to unbelievers; and the importance of prophesying [edifying and strengthening each other with inspired godly words] when in the presence of believers; for the Corinthian brethren were misusing their gift of languages by praying in the assembly in different languages that no one present knew, to show off just for the sake of personal vanity.
If I pray unnecessarily in Chinese when I know English, before an assembly of English speakers, my words may be known by God but will not be understood by the audience. I am just showing off my personal vanity. In that case this is not God’s gift of speaking in tongues at all; it is merely personal vanity and trying to impress others.
The gift of tongues was to be used to communicate a message to unbelievers who otherwise would not be able to understand what was being said.
At the same time the miracle of how it was being done serves to point to the fact that the messenger represents God and that his message comes from God.
That is what signs do; physical signs point to the direction that one is to take or to follow and spiritual signs do the same thing. Signs and miracles are never performed without a purpose and in the case of tongues, the purpose is to direct unbelievers to God.
1 Corinthians 14:23 If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues [at the same time; it is confusion] and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad [this is confusion] ?
The issue in v 23 is the orderly conduct of the service, and in no way detracts from the position that speaking in another language is for the benefit of the unbeliever. if an outsider hears the truth taught in his own language he is convicted towards the truth; but “If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues;” [speaking many languages at the same time]; which means that if all speak in different languages at the same time; the situation will be like the confusion of Babel and people will think them mad; just as they thought them drunk or mad when that same thing happened on Pentecost 31 AD, until Peter stood up as one speaker and brought order.
Paul’s Rebuke to the Corinthians in Regard to Tongues
The reason that Paul went into such long detailed descriptions of this one gift of the Spirit is because the people in Corinth were not exercising their gift of tongues properly.
The main godly intended purpose of exercising this gift was to use it in the presence of unbelievers to preach and to witness to them.
Instead of doing this, the people were using the Gift of God in regards to languages, and misusing their language skills; to show off in a proud display of trying to represent that they were more godly than others, as is done in this very time as well] during worship services when they were supposed to be edifying and building each other up.
They were letting pride in their skill take preeminence. We read in the later part of the chapter, that among other things, this kind of pride was also causing disorder and confusion in their assemblies. Paul wanted to correct them on the proper use of languages and also on the proper order of speaking and edifying during services. (Please see the whole chapter of 1 Corinthians 14)
Clearly there are people with natural language skills while others who are given a special gift from God. The existence of one does not negate the existence of the other. I am including both, concerning the issue of pride; whether pride was in a natural ability or whether pride was in a special gift of God.
The underlying problem that the people of Corinth had, which Paul had to deal with in this lengthy chapter about tongues, was that they were taking pride in their natural skills and God’s gifts; specifically the gift of tongues.
The people by their actions considered tongues to be one of the chief of the spiritual gifts and that pride brought a wrong sense of self-importance. So Paul had to remind them of the true purpose for gifts and told them that there are other gifts that are much more important than tongues.
Speaking in different l;anguages was being practiced within the congregation by those who were supposedly converted (showing off to other believers, instead of as a godly tool to reach unbelievers) using their gifts beyond the purpose for which they had been given.
It was really a matter of PRIDE and VANITY for they were using their gifts to show off and impress each other.
Spiritual gifts are given to profit others out of love for them, and not to bring self-importance and high esteem to the one exercising them; the Corinthians were doing the latter. That was the problem that Paul had to address, that the people in Corinth were using their gift of tongues to show off amongst themselves and were not using it for the purpose for which it had been given to them.
1 Corinthians 12:7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal [for the benefit of the whole body].
The Corinthians were abusing and misusing the gift of tongues, using it for their own purposes and not for the purpose that God had intended. Paul had to strengthen them out. To abuse and misapply the gifts of God is to act like immature children and Paul was not afraid to tell the brethren that they were acting like children in their misuse of God’s gifts.
1 Corinthians 14:20 Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.
Paul uses an illustration comparing men to children, as those who are lacking in spiritual maturity. He is saying to them that they were immature in understanding. Yes, they needed to be like little children who lack malice (evil intentions) but not like children in acting immaturely. He says to be like grown up men who are supposed to be mature in these things.
The people of Corinth had a lot of problems for we see many being addressed throughout Paul’s two Corinthian Epistles. It was true that God had given them an abundance of spiritual gifts but in some cases they did not know how to use them properly and were acting like silly immature children in the use of their God-given gifts. Showing off, taking pride in their gifting, comparing themselves with others who lacked the gifts that they had, and this was causing contentions, jealousies, confusion, and division in the Corinthian congregation.
That is why Paul had to say at the very beginning of the three chapters that have to do with the spiritual gifts that: “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant [uniformed].” (1 Corinthians 12:1)
Even though these were supposed to be converted people, and Paul indicates that they were, they were not yet perfected and Paul had to use stern correction with them. He tells them that they are still acting like spiritual babes.
1 Corinthians 3:1 And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. 3:2 I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. 3:3 For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?
And we see this kind of carnality when it came to using their spiritual gifts and specifically the gift of tongues. Paul addressed this kind of immaturity in another congregation, to the Hebrews who were also lacking in spiritual maturity and said that by this time these brethren should be teachers of others, rather than acting like babes that are unskilled in the Word.
This same warning needs to be heeded by all the members of the Ekklesia especially in our day. We all need to be more skilled in the Word of God and to be more knowledgeable about God’s laws and precepts; and because we are not as skilled as we should be, even after years of being in the Ekklesia, the same things could be said of us.
We too still have jealousies, contentions, strife, factions, and often a group mentality and many still look to blindly following carnal men to lead us. Our problems may not stem from the improper use of speaking in tongues but the same underlying problem of pride, showing off our gifts, refusing to let go of traditions that have been proved to be wrong, thinking that we know everything; and that no one can teach us anything still prevails in the COG assemblies to this day. And we are still unskilled in certain areas that could possibly allow false teachings to come into our midst including the misconceptions of what it means to speak in tongues and other Pentecostal practices unless we know these things and are on guard against them.
Hebrews 5:12 For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. 5:13 For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. 5:14 But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
Modern Misunderstanding of the Gift of Tongues
Some people claim that speaking in an emotionally induced ecstatic gibberish is the “gift of tongues”. Some also believe that it is the only evidence that one has the Holy Spirit or that one has received the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit”. Some claim that to have deep meaningful prayer with God, the Holy Spirit will evoke one to to break out in this kind of emotional utterance that only God can understand.
Those that believe and teach these things tend to look mostly to Acts 2, Romans 8, and 1 Corinthians 14 for their beliefs in regard to tongues but they twist the meaning of the Scriptures and make it say what it does not say.
They believe that the gift is about speaking in a garbled gibberish fashion that no one can understand, including themselves, but somehow God knows what they are speaking. For those who believe and practice such things, they are very childish and do in fact show themselves to be carnal for they lack any kind of spiritual maturity not understanding the Scriptures.
One thing they believe is that speaking in tongues in a gibberish fashion is evidence that one genuinely has the Holy Spirit. They believe that unless you speak in tongues you do not have the Spirit of God. This is completely false! The Scriptures in no way supports this.
The beliefs among these people can vary so others may believe that all believers have the Holy Spirit but speaking in tongues is a kind of badge of superior spirituality than others and that it shows that the ones that have this ability have an extra filling of the Holy Spirit and describe it as the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit”.
The fact is that God says that the gift of tongues is a gift that He gives to certain individuals and that not all are given this particular gift. First of all, Paul says that he does not want the brethren to be ignorant [misguided] and he goes on to then inform them of the proper teaching for the gifts.
1 Corinthians 12:1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.
After explaining the various gifts he tells them that it is God that gives the gifts according to how it pleases Him.
1 Corinthians 12:8 But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.
Not all have all the same gifts but each member is given one or more gifts as God sees fit for them and as it pleases Him.
1 Corinthians 12:8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; 12:9 To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; 12:10 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: 12:11 But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.
People who claim that ecstatic utterances are proof that one has the Holy Spirit or that emotional gibberish comes with the Baptism of the Holy Spirit are teaching completely contrary to the Scripture.
Another false teaching is that tongues indicate a special filling of the Holy Spirit. They use and twist the following Scripture to mean this. But again what does the Bible say?
Paul tells us that we are to be filled with the Spirit and in Ephesians where he says this there is no mention of speaking in tongues. Rather the filling of the Spirit is associated with speaking and singing about the things of God in psalms and hymns, singing to and about God, giving thanks, and submitting to God and one another in the Lord. These are the kind of things that provide evidence of being filled with God’s Spirit.
Ephesians 5:17 Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. 5:18 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; 5:19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; 5:20 Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; 5:21 Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
Is it correct to assume that speaking confused gibberish is evidence of being filled with the Spirit?
The following verses show what kind of fruits one has if he is filled with God’s Spirit. In Galatians 5 we are told to walk in the Spirit and therefore be filled with the fruit of the Spirit. Speaking in tongues is not listed as a fruit of the Spirit but rather love, peace, joy, ect. These things are covered in depth in the Fruits of God’s Spirit series.
Galatians 5:2 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 5:3 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. 5:4 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. 5:5 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
If what these folks teach is true, that uttering unintelligibly or in some non human language is a result of being filled with the Holy Spirit, than Jesus was not filled with the Spirit for Jesus ever did any such thing.
But we absolutely know that Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit, more so than anyone who has ever lived and yet there is no record that He spoke in unintelligible babbling. When one is filled with the Spirit, it means that that person will be living and conducting their lives in a Christ-like way. Just this little bit of evidence shows us that it is not necessary to spout spastic gibberish to be like Christ or to be Spirit-filled like He was.
Peter and the other apostles tell us that if we obey God we will be filled with God’s Holy Spirit. The evidence of being filled with the Spirit is that we understand the spiritual things of God and we are walking in obedience to all of God’s laws. The more we obey, the more we grow in being filled with God’s Spirit, but there is no mention whatsoever that speaking unintelligible gibberish is evidence to ourselves and/or to others that we are filled with the Holy Spirit.
Quite the contrary God’s Spirit is the Spirit of a sound mind and is always subject to control, for even the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. It is only demonic spirits which take control of the mind and body.
Acts 5:32 And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.
The people that see the gift of tongues as ecstatic utterances also misinterpret what is said in 1 Corinthians 14. They use the phrase “unknown tongues” insisting that this means that the gift of tongues is to speak in languages (a gibberish kind of language, or non human utterance) that are unknown to anyone including themselves, but that only God knows what is being said. But that is not what is being said here, rather that the language is known to the speaker, yet implying that what is spoken can be understood by the one hearing.
Paul is pointing out that there is a time and place for speaking in other tongues [languages] to help others, but that we are not to pray in words that cannot be understood.
The proponents of practicing ecstatic utterances tend to focus in on the word “unknown”. The word “unknown” is what may cause stumbling to these people, yet they are reading things into these verses. The word “unknown” is not even in the original text; it is in italics indicating that the word has been inserted in the King James Version in order to clarify “tongues” according to the understanding of the translators. But in reality it only causes more confusion for modern day readers who have been indoctrinated with the biased ideas of the Pentecostals.
The word “unknown” was inserted because none of the Greek manuscripts have any descriptive word there so the translators put what they thought should go there to make the statement more plain. But these folks overlook that fact, and accordingly many argue that Paul is dealing with something different from speaking in known languages. Even if “unknown” were to be read into the verse, it would be referring to the fact that the speaker is speaking in a language that is unknown to him, rather than the speaker using a kind of unknown ecstatic speech used for intimate prayer.
The word translated “tongue” in 1 Corinthians 14:2 and 14 is the normal Greek term for “language”; same word that we quoted earlier in other verses that use the term “tongues”. Second, Paul’s use of the term “mysteries” in verse 2 “howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries” is to indicate something not understood by the hearers,; Third, the following verses in chapter 14 absolutely support the idea that even here Paul is speaking of human languages, and in fact the whole chapter supports this idea as well.
1 Corinthians 14:32 And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. 14:33 For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.
2 Timothy 1:6 Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands. 1:7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
How do we stay close to God and not let this false teaching on some kind of heaven.y language or ecstatic utterance seduce us? We can study Ephesians 6:10-17 and daily apply the kind of spiritual warfare that Paul outlines here in this passage:
Ephesians 6:10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 6:11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. 6:13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 6:14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; 6:15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 6:16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. 6:17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
What many mainstream type churches call “speaking in tongues” today is different than what the Bible records in regards to this practice in the books of Acts and in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians.
The miracle that occurred on the Day of Pentecost in A.D. 31 in which strangers from other lands, each hearing the disciples speaking in his own native language was one of communication and not vain babbling or unintelligible speaking.
It was actually two miracles, for various disciples spoke different languages than their own; but when Peter stood to speak he could only have spoken in one language, but many different languages were heard by the ones that spoke in those languages all at the same time; so the miracles were in the speaking and in the hearing.
The brethren in Corinth were caught up in their vanity, having lost sight of the fact that members of the body are to always use spiritual gifts to benefit others; and not for the purpose of bringing honor and attention to themselves. Paul wrote 1st Corinthians 14 to specifically address this problem.
Paul tried to set them straight by teaching them that the proper use of the gift of languages would be to speak the language or languages that the congregation could understand. That the gift of tongues had its proper place but it was of little value if they were just exercising their gift of speaking in other languages just to hear themselves speak in tongues that were unknown to anyone else.
They were using various languages for the purpose of impressing each other with no one really understanding what was being said. Paul admonished them to focus on speaking in words there were understandable in order to teach God’s Word more fully, so that they could edify each other and thereby grow in the understanding of spiritual things. That was the most important thing rather than impressing each other with their gift of speaking in other languages.
All the biblical examples of speaking in tongues in Isaiah 28, Mark 16, Acts, and in 1 Corinthians 12, 13, 14 demonstrate the correct biblical purpose for “tongues,” and are in direct contrast to the type of “speaking in tongues” practiced in some religions in our modern times; where the people make strange utterances that sound like nonsensical gibberish sounds which are unintelligible to the speaker and to the listener, which is the direct opposite of what true speaking in tongues is about.
Both the apostles Paul and John warn in their letters not to be deceived and taken in by spiritual counterfeits and warn that demonic spirits can appear to be angels of light, and that such spirits seek to infuse their brand of anti-Christ evil spirituality into the Ekklesia if we are not alert and on guard against them.
2 Corinthians 2:11 Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.
2 Corinthians 11:14 And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.
The purpose of these studies is to inform us on the proper use of God’s spiritual gifts but also to make us aware and alert to the possible deceptions that can creep into our own assemblies.
As we know deception began very subtly with the top leaders and some of the ministers and eventually changed what sound doctrine we did have, and replaced the teachings of God with the false traditions of men. Let us be vigilant, Brethren, for deception is the most powerful tool of Satan that he uses against the Ekklesia and he knows that his time is short.
1 Timothy 4:1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;
2 Timothy 3:13 But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.
1 John 4:1 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.
Speaking in tongues in some kind of gibberish is an attempt to counterfeit God’s Spirit. Living any other way than as God reveals, is a counterfeit of the genuine spiritual gift that God gives to his people. There really is no mystery involved. The Greek word that is translated “tongues” simply means language, that is all it is, a language known by hearers but not native to the one that God uses to speak in the language of the listener.
The gift given is so that all can hear the Wonderful Word of God and have the opportunity to believe, repent, be baptized and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
We are to have nothing to do with the unfruitful works of darkness including the kind of profane practice of modern day counterfeit “speaking in tongues” that the Pentecostal Movement teaches. Their teaching is totally contradictory to what Scripture teaches and leads people away from the truth of God, not toward it.
The kind of “gibberish speaking” that is so prevalent and is being practiced today by false religions, is inspired by Satan and is a doctrine of demons. That kind of “gift” is not of God. It is a counterfeit which only brings about pride, deception and confusion and it behooves us to run from such nonsense.
Ephesians 5:6 Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. 5:7 Be not ye therefore partakers with them. 5:8 For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: 5:9 (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) 5:10 Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.
5:11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.5:12 For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. 5:13 But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light. 5:14 Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. 5:15 See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, 5:16 Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
If we want to know what the correct application is for this gift we must look to all of the Scriptures and put them together to give us what it really means to speak in tongues and not look to other religions to give us our understanding.
2 Timothy 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
Jude 1:3 Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. 1:4 For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Revelation 3:11 Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.
When it comes to the teachings about the gift of tongues, let us be sure that what we believe lines up with Scripture, can be verified by Scripture and is not just something that men came up with out of the imaginations of their own hearts.
The Spiritual Gift of the Interpretation of Tongues
The next gift mentioned after the gift of “divers kinds of tongues” in the list found in 1 Corinthians 12:10 is the gift of interpreting tongues.
1 Corinthians 12:10 To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues [languages]; to another the interpretation of tongues [languages] :
To some individuals God gives the gift of supernaturally speaking in different languages, or speaking in one language that all listeners may understand in their own language. and to others He gives the gift of interpretation of languages.
Interpretation is different from speaking with the gift of tongues. The gift of interpretation of languages is extremely useful in translating written material.
Interpretation is needed where a speaker in a language different from the listeners does not have the gift of speaking to be understood in the language of the listeners.
1 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. 14:28 But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.
1 Corinthians 14:5 I would that ye all spake with tongues but rather that ye prophesied [spoke under inspiration]: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.
1 Corinthians 14:12 Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.
At the conclusion to Paul’s instruction regarding the subject of tongues and edification he emphatically stated that he would rather say a few words that could be understood by all than to give long oratories in an unknown tongue that no one could understand what he was saying.
1 Corinthians 14:19 Yet 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.
There is no benefit to others in hearing something they cannot understand. More importantly, when the gifts are not applied properly or abused in the congregations it can cause a lot of spiritual harm to the brethren.
It appears from Paul’s writings that it required a lot of wisdom when using these gifts among the people, for he goes into great detail about when to use them and when not to use them and from there goes on to exhort them in regard to having order when they came together to worship.
His concern was that everything, including the speaking in tongues and the interpreting of those tongues, is done for the edification of the assemblies.
He explains to the brethren that there should only be two or three speaking in a foreign language and if necessary they should be interpreted. If there is no interpreter present, then one should hold his peace or be quiet (1 Corinthians 14:26-28). The gifts were to be used in a concerted effort by humble individuals who only want to benefit the people (the body of Christ) and also glorify God with the gifts He had given to them. He did not want the gifts abused or misused by those who were puffed up with pride because they had these gifts and abilities.
Jesus too exhorted His disciples, which would include all those that would come after, of this very principle; that we are always to keep our priorities in order. The seventy that were sent out discovered that they had been given miraculous abilities and they marveled [were amazed] at them, and we would do the same thing, but Jesus redirected their thinking and told them to set their hearts on eternal life and on the Kingdom of God. That is what we are to maintain as our top priority above and beyond having certain gifts as wonderful and spectacular as they might be. The gifts are really only tools to do God’s work here on earth but to have our names written in heaven is something we can really rejoice in.
Luke 10:17 And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name. 10:18 And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.
10:19 Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. 10:20 Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.
If the gift of speaking in tongues was a part of the Ekklesia in our time, it would be practiced in agreement with what the Bible teaches and exemplifies. The speakers would speak-forth genuine languages of different countries (1 Corinthians 14:10). It would be for the purpose of communicating God’s Word to other people of another language not known by the speaker (Acts 2:6-12), and the practice would also be in accordance with 1 Corinthians 14:33, “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints”, being of a sound mind under God’s inspiration (2 Timothy 3:16).
14:33 For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. 14:34 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. 14:35 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. 14:36 What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only? 14:37 If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. 14:38 But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant. 14:39 Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues. 14:40 Let all things be done decently and in order.
Paul cared about his congregations and just as he prayed for the people in Ephesus he would have prayed for those in Corinth. He wanted them to come to have a spirit of wisdom and knowledge in all the things of God and that they would have a walk [life] worthy of their high calling. Paul prayed that God’s people would understand and be enlightened in the ways of God and that we would be wise stewards of all that He gives to us including having the proper knowledge regarding spiritual gifts that He bestows upon us.
Ephesians 1:15 Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, 1:16 Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers;
1:17 That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: 1:18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, 1:19 And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,
James Malm and Constance Belanger
Note- Constance submitted the original rough draft of this article in 2015, which I then completed for posting.