Should I “speak in tongues?”

SHOULD I “SPEAK IN TONGUES?” SHOULD I “PRAY IN TONGUES?” IS TODAY’S “GIFT OF TONGUES” OF THE GOD OF THE BIBLE?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Proponents of the charismatic movement claim that we need to be “filled with the Holy Ghost with the initial evidence of speaking in tongues.” Must we speak in tongues to be saved? Is speaking in tongues necessary to prove our salvation? Remember, we do not appeal to a theological system for answers to these questions. Church tradition, experiences, and assumptions are not the issue; what matters is what God’s Word says.

Let us see what the Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12:10,28,30 about spiritual gifts: “[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: [28] And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. [30] Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?” Certainly, some of these Christians had the gift of tongues.

In Mark 16:17, Jesus Christ Himself said, “And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues.”

Paul himself wrote, “I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all” (1 Corinthians 14:18).

Tongue-talking is certainly biblical, for the above verses demonstrate that certain Christians and Jewish believers had the spiritual gift of tongues. But, is speaking in tongues something we Christians should practice today? That is, is tongue-talking dispensational? (We will answer this question later.) The Bible clearly mentions “speaking in tongues,” but before we discuss this topic any further, we need to define this term as the Bible defines it, not what a denomination says it is. Firstly, what does it mean to “speak in tongues” in the Bible?

Today, church members claim to speak in allegedly “angelic language,” some special prayer language that only God understands. Upon listening to these people “pray in the Spirit,” we conclude it is nothing intelligent: “Hastala shandala hobbla gobbla.” Others repeat, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.” This behavior is related to the Oriental religions’ “breath prayers” and uttering the Roman Catholic repetitious rosary. In short, it is vain, worthless religious nonsense!

Corinth was the most spiritually immature Christian assembly Paul knew. These believers loved feel-good worship services, emotional highs, and being the center of attention (1 Corinthians 14:4,5ff.). That is much of “the Church” today! Corinth abused spiritual gifts, so Paul devoted three chapters (1 Corinthians chapters 12, 13, and 14) to address these problems. Chapter 14 deals entirely with tongue-talking.

In 1 Corinthians 14:2, 4, 13, 14, 19, and 27, Paul mentioned speaking in “unknown tongues.” That word “unknown”—absent from modern Bibles—indicates this was not God’s gift of tongues. This was some ecstatic, nonsensical utterance based on emotions: some believers in Corinth just loved to draw attention to themselves by abusing tongues (that is, by speaking in gibberish). God’s gift of tongues was always intelligent human languages, dialects.

The Apostle Paul confirmed that speaking in tongues in Scriptures was always an intelligent language that could be translated and understood (profitable). He wrote in 1 Corinthians 14:7-19: “[7] And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped? [8] For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? [9] So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air. [10] There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification. [11] Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian [foreigner], and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian [foreigner] unto me. [12] Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church. [13] Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret. [14] For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful. [15] What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also. [16] Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest? [17] For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified. [18] I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all: [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.

What did Paul say in verse 19 above? “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.” Talking 10,000 words in gibberish will profit nothing! Speak with intelligence, not some “angelic tongue.” According to the Bible, “God is not the author of confusion” (1 Corinthians 14:33), so if it is not an intelligent human language that can be reduced and profitable, it is not from the God of the Bible!

We see how the gift of tongues operated in the Bible by looking at Acts 2, the day of Pentecost and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on Israel’s 12 apostles. Let us read Acts 2:4-11: “[4] And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. [5] And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. [6] Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. [7] And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? [8] And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? [9] Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, [10] Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, [11] Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.”

For the Feast of Pentecost, there were Jews in Jerusalem “out of every nation under heaven” (verse 5). These Jews did not speak Hebrew, Greek, or Aramaic, so in order for them to understand Joel’s prophecy was being fulfilled, God the Holy Ghost caused Israel’s 12 apostles to speak God’s Word in at least 15 different dialects, those human languages of the nations out of which those Jews came. These Jews were amazed (“confounded”) that uneducated fisherman could speak all of these intelligent languages that they had never formally learned!

The various human languages of the world are the result of God’s judgment on rebellious mankind at the Tower of Babel back in Genesis 11:1-9. In Israel’s earthly kingdom, which is still future, this curse of the languages will be reversed. Zechariah 8:23 says: “Thus saith the LORD of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you.” Israel was given the gift of speaking in tongues as a way to evangelize Gentiles (which they will do when Jesus Christ returns at His Second Coming).

Israel is also God’s “signs, miracles, and wonders” people. “For the Jews require a sign” (1 Corinthians 1:22a). In order to demonstrate that He was working in their midst, God would perform miraculous demonstrations for Israel to see and hear. This was true throughout the “Old Testament” Scriptures, the Four Gospels, and even into early Acts.

Acts 10:45-47 demonstrates what God taught Israel using the gift of tongues: “[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. [46] For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. [47] Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?” Notice how these were intelligent human languages—otherwise, these Jews would have been unable to recognize that these Gentiles were “magnifying God” (rather than cursing Him, which could not be distinguished had this been gibberish). God poured out Israel’s gift of speaking in tongues on Gentiles to show Israel that He was now saving Gentiles.

This is why there was tongue-speaking in Paul’s ministry and in the early Church the Body of Christ. God was proving to Israel, especially unbelieving Israel, that He was now ministering to the Gentiles through Paul’s ministry. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 14:21-22: “[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. [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.”

The spiritual gifts program, however, was only temporary. Those spiritual gifts were only operating while the transitional book of Acts was occurring. God was moving away from Israel and going to the Gentiles, and the miraculous demonstrations—including the gift of tongues—operating amongst the Gentiles proved this. Once that transitional period was over (that is, the book of Acts had ended), God had fully set aside Israel and her program. Once the spiritual gifts ceased, the Corinthians would have nothing on which to rely in their Christian life! Thus, Paul urged these immature believers to grow up, and not to be fixated on spiritual gifts, which were passing away (Paul’s two letters to Corinth were written during the latter half of the Acts period).

Notice carefully what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13:8-13: “[8] Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. [9] For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. [10] But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. [11] When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. [12] For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. [13] And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”

The spiritual gifts (the chief of which were the gift of prophecy, the gift of tongues, and the gift of knowledge; verse 8) were only going to operate while there was incomplete knowledge and incomplete understanding of God’s Word. When the Bible canon was completed, which was about A.D. 68, the spiritual gifts were no longer needed. The gift of speaking in tongues “vanished away” when the Bible was completed in the A.D. first century. “That which is perfect is come” is complete knowledge and complete understanding—it is not Jesus Christ’s coming and it is not going heaven. God does not want us to grow up when we get to heaven—He wants us to grow up now! Paul wrote that the immature Corinthians needed to grow up now! “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things” (1 Corinthians 13:11).

Contrary to the tenets of the charismatic movement, the gift of speaking in tongues is of no use to us today—otherwise, we are wasting our money and time sending missionary to learn foreign languages in language school! It existed in the early days of the Church the Body of Christ, when God was using it to signify to the Jews that He was now operating amongst the Gentiles. But, there came a point in time when the spiritual gifts were no longer needed. The spiritual gifts were no longer needed when the Word of God, the Holy Bible, was completed, and mankind received the full/complete (“perfect”) revelation from God. We know that today’s tongue-talkers in religion are not doing God’s will, for they are not obeying the rules regarding tongue talking as described in 1 Corinthians chapter 14.

  1. MUST ONLY BE MEN SPEAKING IN TONGUES. When God’s gift of tongues is operating, only men talk with them (verse 34). Why are women talking in tongues today?
  2. MUST BE TWO, OR AT THE MOST THREE, MEN SPEAKING IN TONGUES AT ONE MEETING, AND THEY MUST TAKE TURNS TALKING. No more than two or three are allowed to speak in tongues, and they are to take turns talking—they are not to talk over one another, and the entire assembly is not to speak in tongues (verses 23-24, 40). Why do whole churches engage in tongue-talking today?
  3. MUST MAINTAIN SELF-CONTROL AT ALL TIMES. Self-control is to be present the entire time while the gift of tongues is in operation (verse 40). Why do today’s tongue-talkers lose bodily control (jumping pews, running down aisles, dancing, convulsing on floors, et cetera)?
  4. MUST BE INTERPRETED/TRANSLATED. God’s gift of tongues was an intelligent human language never formally learned, but it was to be interpreted (verses 27-28; cf. Acts 2:4-11). Why do today’s tongue-talkers utter gibberish, which cannot be reduced to anything intelligent and profitable?
  5. MUST BE A SIGN TO UNBELIEVING ISRAEL. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 14:21-22: “[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. [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.” God is not dealing with Israel anyway, so why would He be communicating to Israel via the gift of tongues?

Obviously, today’s “gift of tongues” is not of the God of the Bible; it does not agree with these rules for speaking in tongues that God laid out in the above verses. Rather than spiritual gifts, we have the completed and written Word of God to accomplish His will, and that Bible can be and has been translated into the languages of the world: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). It is studying and believing that Holy Word of God rightly divided that we will grow up spiritually!

So, if it is not of the God of the Bible, then what is the origin of the modern-day gift of speaking in tongues? It is nothing more than an emotional high, the overactive flesh of spiritually immature people who are not cooperating with the God of the Bible. “Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect through the flesh?” (Galatians 3:3). God does not deal with us via emotions (they are tainted by sin); God communicates to us through our spirit, our mind, as we study and believe His Word (Romans 12:1,2; Ephesians 4:23; Colossians 3:10).

Also see:
» Should I be filled with the Holy Ghost? (UPCOMING)
» Are signs, miracles, and wonders for today? (UPCOMING)
» What about angelic appearances, visions, dreams, and other experiences? (UPCOMING)

8 responses to “Should I “speak in tongues?”

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  4. Two points of interest I would mention:
    Is there any bible info on what happened to the Gentiles of Acts 10? It seems Peter forgot all about them and became “brain dead” when he returned to Jerusalem. Were they added to the Jewish saints under the law?
    Or did they go under Paul’s ministry? It is not mentioned in the lessons I have studied, or anywhere in scripture that I have found.
    You mention the canon of scripture complete @ 68ad.
    Many say Revelation was written in 96ad. Do you hold that Revelation was written before 68ad?

    • Hello again, excellent questions.

      QUESTION #1: “Is there any bible info on what happened to the Gentiles of Acts 10? It seems Peter forgot all about them and became “brain dead” when he returned to Jerusalem. Were they added to the Jewish saints under the law? Or did they go under Paul’s ministry? It is not mentioned in the lessons I have studied, or anywhere in scripture that I have found.”

      ANSWER #1: Remember the context–Cornelius is a Roman centurion, “a devout [religious] man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway” (Acts 10:1-2; see also verse 22). On the authority of the Old Testament, Cornelius blessed Israel by giving alms (goods, money) to Israel: he knew that the Abrahamic Covenant was the only way he could approach the God of Israel, and the Abrahamic Covenant said that God would bless Gentiles who would bless Israel and He would curse Gentiles who would curse Israel. Cornelius was still lost, since He did not have the Holy Spirit, but he had some spiritual light and was seeking additional understanding. God sent Peter to Cornelius to give Cornelius the chance to be saved. Peter understood that God honored Cornelius’ blessing of Israel, and, in accordance with the Abrahamic Covenant, God would indeed bless Cornelius (a similar event was Luke 7:1-10; this passage is greatly helpful in understanding the account of Cornelius). Peter said in Acts 10:34-35, “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.” Paul never preached this works message, so the Gentiles of Acts 10 could never come and never did come under Paul’s ministry (there really is no Abrahamic Covenant in Paul’s ministry, since we are blessed APART from redeemed Israel and we are blessed in Christ [Eph. 1:3]). Cornelius and all those Gentiles of Acts 10 would have had to have stayed with Peter’s ministry, and, as far as Scripture is concerned, Peter never ministered to Gentiles again (Galatians 2:9 = Acts 15). Cornelius and his friends were added to the Jews under the Law. Paul never ministered to them as far as the book of Acts is concerned, so the best conclusion is that the Gentiles of Acts 10 stayed with Israel and her apostles.

      As a side-note, why did God put Acts 10 in our Bible? The events with Cornelius helped Peter to come to Paul’s defense in Acts 15:7-11, when Paul affirmed that Gentiles in Paul’s ministry were saved apart from the Ten Commandments (as Peter learned in Acts 10) and that in Paul’s ministry they had received the Holy Spirit without water baptism (as Peter learned in Acts 10). It was in God’s design to have Peter experience something 10 years prior to the meeting of Acts 15, so that Peter could one save Paul’s ministry with his own testimony. (People usually get hung up and confused on certain aspects of Acts 10 without seeing WHY God had it occur, so please be sure to note the reason.)

      QUESTION #2: “You mention the canon of scripture complete @ 68ad. Many say Revelation was written in 96ad. Do you hold that Revelation was written before 68ad?”

      ANSWER #2: For a long time, I held to the idea that John wrote his Gospel record, his three little epistles, and the Revelation between 90 and 100 A.D. Why did I believe it? Only because I heard it all my life in church. It’s a traditional idea, something that has been repeated so long and so often that no one really remembers that it lacks any Scriptural support. I’ll share with the verses that changed my view, in just a few moments.

      From what I have researched, there is no solid Biblical evidence to support the view that John wrote in 90-100. To have John writing 20 or 30 years after the deaths of Peter and Paul and some 60 or 70 years after Calvary is strange to me. Why would God have such a huge gap in NT chronology? Actually, to have Revelation dated so late is, I think, partially due to a misreading of John 21:22-24. It is said that Jesus claimed John would live until Jesus would return to Earth (or at least John would SEE a glimpse of Jesus’ Second Coming, a supposed reference to John’s visions recorded in the book of the Revelation). If you study that passage closely in John, however, it reads so that we know there was a similar misunderstanding amongst the disciples. The Holy Spirit made sure we see that John living until Christ would come back was attached to a BIG “IF” (conditional, hypothetical, NOT 100% truth). Jesus never actually said John would live to see His Second Coming.

      Then, there are the “preterists,” people who say that most or all of prophecy was fulfilled in A.D. 70 when Rome overran Jerusalem and burned the Temple. They say Jesus came back at His Second Coming in A.D. 70 and established the earthly kingdom (is that ridiculous or what?!). Perhaps church tradition dated John’s writings (particularly the Revelation) to be A.D. 90-100 in order to prove the preterists wrong. If John wrote about Christ’s coming as FUTURE from A.D. 90-100, they say, then Christ didn’t come back in A.D. 70 (John’s writing would be pointless). While assigning John’s writings to A.D. 90-100 does indeed prove the preterists wrong, I believe it causes us to disagree with verses that indicate Paul wrote the last Bible book. The preterists are wrong for many reasons (beyond the scope of this study), but we don’t need to disregard verses just to date John’s writings so late.

      Here are two passages that convinced me that Revelation was written much earlier than most scholars say.

      Colossians 1:

      “23 If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;
      24 Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church:
      25 Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, TO FULFIL THE WORD OF GOD;
      26 Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints:
      27 To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:”

      One of the tasks the God of the Bible gave the Apostle Paul was for him to “fulfil the word of God.” Paul was commissioned to finish the Bible, bring its revelation to completion, by writing the mystery program. When Paul was finished writing his last epistle (which was 2 Timothy in light of chapter 4:6-8), the revelation from God was complete. Israel’s writers had already summed up the prophetic program, and now Paul had summed up the mystery program. All of God’s will was now disclosed. Apostles Peter and Paul are estimated to have died under Roman Emperor Nero’s reign. I’ve read their demises occurred anywhere from 64 to 68. Obviously, Paul could not have written past his death, so I just use the latter year for simplicity. Paul wrote 2 Timothy no later than A.D. 68. To have John come 20 or 30 years later (A.D. 90-100) writing further revelation from God wouldn’t fit with these verses.

      A second passage I use in regards to dating Revelation (or all of John’s books) is 2 Timothy 3:16-17:

      “16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
      17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”

      Paul considered the Bible complete. By writing 2 Timothy, he was writing the last book, and in that last book, he talked about a full revelation from God. Christians didn’t need another word from God (again, prophecy was fully disclosed and mystery was fully disclosed). Had John’s five books been written in A.D. 90-100, that meant a fifth of the NT was absent when Paul wrote 2 Timothy, and how could God consider a NT with 22 books enough for Christian living to be experienced to its fullest (whether in our mystery program or Israel’s prophetic program, believers would still be lacking five books to learn from and be edified in)?

      It is in light of these verses and comments that I believe all NT Bible books were written before A.D. 68. Paul wrote the last Bible book (2 Timothy) no later than A.D. 68, and Peter wrote his last epistle (2 Peter) just before this time.

      Hope that helps!

      in Christ, Shawn

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