What is Speaking in Tongues

The practice of speaking in tongues as found in the Church today did not come from studying the Bible. It just suddenly appeared around the year 1901. If what we see in the Church today did not exist in the Church prior to that, then where did it come from? Research by many has revealed that speaking in tongues is present in non-Christian religions and is even found in satanic cults and so this should be of extreme concern to Christians.

History also records that the practice of glossolalia or speaking in tongues even goes back long before Pentecost as found in Acts chapter two, which was speaking in foreign languages. So is tongues as seen in the Church today from God or are there other explanations?

The gift of tongues (tongues means language) is still given today though it is not as prevalent as what it was with the early Church as the same need does not exist today. The first occurrence of tongues in the Bible is Pentecost in Acts chapter 2, which shows tongues to be the ability to speak in other Earthly languages for the purpose of preaching the gospel. There are those however who quote 1 Corinthians 14:4 and say there is another type of tongues that is just for personal edification. An examination of the context of this passage instantly reveals this to be nothing more than an abuse of scripture to justify what is done in the Church today. Am I saying there is not a real gift of tongues? Absolutely not! What I am saying is that there is only one type of tongues and the Bible does not specifically say anywhere that there are two. This belief is based on nothing more than a bad assumption.

My wife and I were in a very large Pentecostal class once that was teaching the supposed truth about tongues. The first question that was asked and that no one in the class could answer, since they all had the same question, was “How do we tell which tongue is being referred to in each reference to speaking in tongues in scripture?” The reply was, “I do not know! You will have to speak to this person who is an expert in this field.” Did you get that? Working on the assumption that there are two types of tongues, in over 300 people who knew their Bibles, there was not one person including the teacher that could determine what Bible passage was speaking of what type of tongue. Why? Because there is only one type. That is, speaking in another earthly language for the purpose of taking the Gospel to the world.

It is because of what happened in 1901 that people started searching the scriptures to try and find something that would justify this babble that the speaker could not understand and that also could not be proven to be from God. It was also assumed that the gift of interpretation was given for just this purpose. But this was also wrong. The gift of interpretation was to interpret the language of a foreigner into the language spoken by the majority present.

It was eventually concluded that this unintelligible babble was given for self edification and this conclusion was based primarily on 1 Corinthians 14:4, and was the opposite to what Paul was saying. So once everyone in our class was told that this verse was the answer, everyone just blindly accepted that this must be the truth and believed it. So 1 Corinthians chapter 14 was the other type of tongue they exhorted. So in time, this then becomes the mind set and when anyone is asked or if one is challenged on this babble, then this verse automatically becomes the common response. If there really were a second type of tongues for our own personal edification, there would be clear teaching to this effect but it simply does not exist.

Here is a paraphrased version of what Paul is really saying. 1 Corinthians 14:1-5 “Follow after love and desire spiritual gifts but favour the gift of prophesying. 2 Because he that speaks in a language not known to others is not understood by any man present and only God knows what he is saying. 3 But if you prophesy you speak unto men for their edification, exhortation and comfort. 4 But if one speaks in a language unknown to the others, he only edifies himself which is wrong as it does not edify the Church, but he that prophesies does edify the church. 5 I don’t mind if you all speak other languages, but I would rather that you prophesy because greater is he that prophesies than he that speaks in another language unless someone interprets that language into a language known by those present so that the church may receive edifying.” Can you see what Paul is saying? He says only speak in another language in the Church if someone with the gift of interpretation interprets in the language spoken by the majority, and he especially says that he would rather that everyone prophesied because that always edifies the Church. The message from Paul is that the gifts are for the profit of all, (1 Corinthians 12:7) that is, for the edification of the Church. He is saying that if it does not edify the Church then do not do it as it is not for personal edification! Paul also says in 1 Corinthians 14:27 that speaking in tongues should only be done two or three times per service. Is this what we see in the Church today? No!

Paul also states that everyone receives different gifts (1 Corinthians 12:8-11) and says that not all speak in tongues (1 Corinthians 12:30). He also states that we should covet the best gifts as that will best help the growth of God’s kingdom. In other words, not just tongues as seen today (1 Corinthians 12:31).

Does 1 Corinthians 13:1 say that we or Paul can speak in the tongues of Angels? The translators of the KJV Bible translated misleadingly here with the use of the word “though,” which should have been “if”. The Thayer Definition is: “1) if, in case.” Paul is saying “If” I had all knowledge, “If” I could speak in the tongues of Angels, “If” I could remove mountains, “If” I understood all mysteries, “If” I were to give my body to be burned but had not love, I might as well be like a clanging symbol. To make this even clearer, Paul is effectively saying, if I could leap tall buildings in a single bound like superman but had not love, then it profits him nothing. Paul is giving exaggerated examples to make his point clear on the importance of love. Did Paul give his body to be burned? No! Did Paul understand all mysteries? No! Did Paul have all knowledge? Of course not! Only God understands all mysteries and has all knowledge! And neither did Paul speak in the tongues of angels!

What about Mark chapter 16? Does Mark say that if we do not speak in tongues that we are not saved? The Greek word for “new” that is used in this passage does not mean brand new but new to them. That is, they would speak in earthly languages that they had previously not spoken or learnt. If you were not saved unless you had the gift of speaking in tongues based on this passage, then you would also not be saved unless you could drink poison and not die, cast out demons, be bitten by a deadly snake and not be harmed in any way and be able lay hands on any sick person and always have them recover. This is very much a doctrine of devils. Read carefully the passage in contention. Mark 16:17-18 “And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new [new to them, not brand new] tongues; 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.” Parentheses are added.

God gave the gifts to help His Church grow. Speaking in tongues as you hear in the Church today is said to be given freely but how does this help God's kingdom grow? If there ever was a real need for the real gift of tongues, it would be for missionaries who preach the Gospel all over the world. Do they also freely receive the gift of tongues like the Church today but as seen at Pentecost? Almost never today! Something is seriously wrong here and yet no one seems to want to know the real truth. Christians today are to busy seeking signs and wonders rather then Biblical truth. And does the Church today covet the best gifts as Paul taught we should, (1 Corinthians 12:31) or do they always just pray for the gift of tongues with the expectation that you should always have this gift? Please read what is speaking in tongues for a very detailed document that covers all aspects of this very controversial and sensitive topic.