I’m often asked about this phenomenon of speaking in tongues. Today’s charismatic church has this movement where they all scream and yell in a language no one understands. Is that what the apostles were doing when people from other nations understood what they were saying? So what did we do? We realized there was an apparent contradiction so we created an answer from our own understanding. Now we teach that there are 2 different types of gifts of tongues. One is called diverse tongues which is speaking other languages as the holy spirit gives us and the other is what we see today. Speaking in a tongue no man knows because of misunderstanding of some scriptures in Corinthians. Well I found a wonderful and biblically correct understanding from a man name Mr. Jim McClarty. Let’s check out Mr. McClarty and what he says about it. Someone asked him the question and that is presented by the “Q-” and then he goes on to answer it where it says “Jim-”
Q - I have a question for you. I have been tempted to visit this fairly large (actually huge) Church of God. I bet there at least 1,000 or 2,000 (if not more) members – which I think is too large, people get lost in the crowd. In any event, my problem with the Church of God is the speaking in tongues thing. What are your thoughts on the subject? I’m sure you must have addressed this at some point. Any guidance or thoughts? I would like to know your perspective on this.
Jim - So, speaking in tongues, eh? I do have an opinion (as you might expect). I’ve been asked about it frequently because there’s plenty of confusion out there. But, there doesn’t need to be. The Greek word that is translated “tongues” is “glossa” – from which we get the English word “glossary.” It should have been translated “language,” but during the days of King James (1611) the word “tongue” was synonymous with “language.” For instance, we still talk about people who speak a “foreign tongue.” And, that’s the way the word is used in the Bible. It means, “spoken language.” Now, the first place where the phenomenon of men speaking in languages they didn’t naturally speak (or know) was on the day of Pentecost, at the inception of the Church. Peter stood up to speak, but his audience was filled with Jews from all over the middle Asia area, who spoke a variety of languages and dialects. “And, they (the apostles) were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.” (Acts 2:4-6) What should be instantly obvious from that passage was that the apostles spoke actual foreign languages in order that the multitude could all understand. That’s what “tongues” was all about and what the purpose was. Without the methods and means of mass communication that we have available today, every area developed languages and dialects unique to themselves. But, when the time came for the Gospel of Christ to be spread abroad, the message was carried by fishermen, tax collectors, zealots and the like who spoke Greek and some Aramaic. “And they (the men from every nation) were amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappodocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God. And, they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this?” (Acts 2:7-12) So, God miraculously caused the Apostles to speak languages that were unknown to them and caused the listeners to hear in their own language. And, the gospel of grace spread. But again, it’s obvious that the “tongues” spoken by the Apostles were known, definable languages, not babble or gibberish.
As Paul journeyed through his ministry, he encountered many languages and preached nonetheless. As the Church grew, the gifts of the Spirit spread in order to promote the message of grace. But, some began to abuse the gifts and Paul had to correct them – “I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all; 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.” (1 Cor.14:19-20) Paul went on to instruct the Corinthian church that tongues were not to be exercised in the church meetings. The gift of tongues was a method for preaching and evangelizing among the lost. But, the church was to gather for the purpose of reading, studying, preaching and exhorting through the Word. “Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not; but prophesying [preaching the word] serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe. If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?” (1 Cor. 14:22-23) So, Paul was quite clear that speaking with tongues – other known, spoken, extant languages of the day - was for a sign to unbelievers and not something to be exhibited in the church. In the church, preaching and teaching are the priority. Now, when most people think of “speaking in tongues” they mean the sort of ecstatic utterances that we see on TBN or in Assembly of God churches. The people who exercise that sort of activity call themselves “Pentecostal” to connect themselves with the gifts that appeared at the first Pentecost. Or, they are known as “Charismatic” from the Greek word for gifts of the Spirit – “charis.” That word is also translated “grace” in many passages. There is no evidence in Scripture that any of the apostles or early church members ever broke into fits of uncontrolled verbiage and noises. When the Spirit spoke through the Apostles, it spoke a language known by the hearers for the purpose of advancing the gospel message.
The primary verse that the proponents of ecstatic utterance use is from 1 Corinthians 13:1. It’s the beginning of Paul’s great treatise on love and charity. From the context it’s clear that Paul is speaking in hyperbole, overstating his case, in order to prove that charitable love is the greatest Christian virtue. It reads - “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And, though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And, though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” (1 Cor. 1-3) Obviously, Paul was saying that even if he had every spiritual gift to the maximum but failed in charity, it was all pointless. But, at the top of his list he used the term “the tongues…of angels.” And, that did it. People have grabbed hold of that phrase and claim that their verbal recitations of noises and unknown, unrecognizable words are “the tongues of angels.” But, any honest reader of Paul’s words can see that Paul was not promoting the idea that angelic languages were suddenly available to mankind. He was saying that even if he spoke every language known among men and angels – a clear case of hyperbole – without Christian charity the sounds he made would sound like horns and cymbals. Even at Pentecost, the Apostles were not going through the gyrations and techniques advocated by modern Pentecostals in order to stimulate tongue-talking. In fact, they weren’t expecting it at all. God simply spoke through them by His Spirit and they spoke languages that were unknown to them, but known to their listeners. And, they all glorified God as a result. As far large churches uniting around tongue-talking, it does happen. Nothing unites people faster than a common experience. Like veterans getting together years after a war, they have a lasting bond because of the experience they shared. So, in order to build large congregations, many Pentecostal denominations insist that the only proof of the Spirit being in you – proof positive of your salvation – is that you talk in tongues. To be fair, many of them have backed off that position, seeing that it’s unscriptural, but there is still an undue emphasis on tongues in those churches. There’s more to say, and Paul instructed the Corinthian church about how to keep from letting tongue-talking get out of control in their meetings, but I think this is a fair overview. As for me, I’m just a stickler for the Word and I try to adjust our theology and our worship accordingly. Hope it helps.
Yours for His sake,
I would like to add a few more points from 1 Cor 14 that are taken out of context to support this gibberish language. We are actually the ones that make this wonderful Word of God contradict. We are the reason atheist have their fuel. Lets take a look:
1 Cor 14 Those who have the gift of speaking in different languages are not speaking to people; they are speaking to God. No one understands them; they are speaking secret things through the Spirit. So here we have a scripture that they use to support what they are doing. The bible says no one understand them because they are speaking things no one understands. Watch what happens when you read further down. 1 Cor 14 22a So the gift of speaking in different kinds of languages is a sign for those who do not believe, not for those who do believe. So first he says we are to speak secrets that no one understands and then he says its for the unbeliever. So we think this is a contradiction and we tried to answer it with our human wisdom to explain this. We even have an example of this from Acts. (Acts 2 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.5Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language.7Utterly amazed, they asked: “Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? 8Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language?) That was the sign for the unbelievers guys. That is how this gift is suppose to work. Paul even made this statement that through everything into perspective: 1 Cor 14 9So it is with you. Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air. 10Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet NONE OF THEM IS WITHOUT MEANING. Then he also says, 18I thank God that I speak in more languages than all of you. 19But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue. How often do you hear people say I speak in more tongues than you? You don’t hear that because it doesn’t make sense to us. Think about it, Paul traveled very often… he had to go to towns where he didn’t know the native language. Thats where the holy spirit had to step in and speak to them in their language. See what happened here is, we don’t understand the language that this was written in. Thats the problem we are having.
Mr McClarty has done a wonderful job with his response. That was absolutely biblical. Now we arent going to condemn those who do speak in this false version of tongues today but what I would say to them is to at least follow scripture in how you do it. Today we have the entire gathering screaming and yelling in what they feel is tongues. Scripture gives us understanding of how to use this gift. Never were we told to all do it at once… in fact we were told NOT do that.
1 Cor 14 6 So, brothers and sisters, what should you do? When you meet together, one person has a song, and another has a teaching. Another has a new truth from God. Another speaks in a different language,and another person interprets that language. The purpose of all these things should be to help the church grow strong. 27 When you meet together, if anyone speaks in a different language, it should be only two, or not more than three, who speak. They should speak one after the other, and someone should interpret. 28 But if there is no interpreter, then those who speak in a different language should be quiet in the church meeting. They should speak only to themselves and to God.
I hope you have learned something and that you will grab hold to the understanding about this gift. Don’t feel bad if you realize you never had this gift as I have and many have… but understand that God has given you other gifts that you can utilize and win souls to Christ or help the body.
Hyperbole is a figure of speech which is an exaggeration. Persons often use expressions such as “I nearly died laughing,” “I was hopping mad,” and “I tried a thousand times.” Such statements are not literally true, but people make them to sound impressive or to emphasize something, such as a feeling, effort, or reaction.
Good Comedy video