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Challenge on Tongues

March 20, 2002


The following is an Email comment from a reader, which I am posting anonymously and without their permission. The reason being is that it reflects what many tongues-speakers think. Following it will be my response. This person is in a "First Apostolic Church."

I liked your articles on the occult background of the Number of the Beast.  It was really informative.

It's too bad you reject Pentecostals though.  It seems like a lot of groups who are not well grounded in scripture are the basis of your articles.
For example you asked if anyone in the bible who spoke in tongues also did the following:

  - Babble gibberish which no one could understand?  
  - Laugh and weep uncontrollably and hysterically?  
  - Have convulsions?  
  - Roll around on the floor shouting at God?  
  - Believe that they knew all things and everything they wanted to be was theirs?
  - Was the knowledge that they were sinful removed from them?
  - Were they given the idea that whatever they thought or believed was right before God?  

My church believes in the Baptism of the Holy Ghost and that speaking in tongues is an outward sign as such. We don't have convulsions, act like maniacs or believe we are above the Word of God.  That's a bunch of nonsense.  We also don't equate tongues as a sign of the infilling of the Holy Ghost with the 'gift of tongues'.  This is the source of a lot of your confusion.

I don't see why my experience of being Baptized in Jesus name, and being filled with the Holy Ghost is wrong when it matches accounts of new converts as described in the Book of Acts (Acts 2; Ephesian converts; Peter preaching to Gentiles; Samaritan converts, etc.)  To me, rejection the work of the Holy Spirit in today's church is akin to the Pharisees blaspheming the Holy Spirit by claiming that Jesus power was demonic.  According to Jesus, this was the only unforgiveable sin.

While I understand that there are no doubt a lot of groups out there that are not very well grounded in scripture and who are opening themselves up to 'spirits' thinking they are of God, don't brand everybody who still believes in the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit as a cultist and a wacko.  It's pretty insulting to us and I think to God.

Don't you believe God can still do incredible miracles through his church or do you think he wants us to be a wimpy neutered bunch of intellectuals who read about the 'good old days' of the Apostles.  Sad.

Unfortunately, it seems like when people have closed their minds to certain things, there's no sense in arguing.  My suggestion is to seek God and ask him to show me what he wanted out of me.  I feel that receiving the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and also being water baptized in Jesus name were experiences that are scripturally sound, guided by God and have deepened my walk with him immensly.

Sorry this is so poorly written but its really late.  I'm so sad about the state of modern Christianity and that even groups who honestly want to defend truth are themselves so blind and misguided.  I'll pray for you.

My response:

I want to thank you for writing and voicing your concerns and objections. You’ve made some statements and asked some questions which I would like to address. I hope that you will seriously consider the answers. 

You suggest to reject tongues and the related baptism of the Holy Spirit to be paramount to blasphemy, suggesting that also means rejecting God’s power. You also suggest that unless one has that experience one is leading a wimpy, neutered and basically unfulfilling and unbiblical life. Strange that the Pentecostal/charismatic movement was a minority until the turn of the Century—were the people before this who loved the Lord Jesus not of him because they did not speak in the tongues you do?  However, one has nothing to do with the other. I wonder if you believe that those who don’t speak in tongues do not have the Holy Spirit nor are sanctified by the Holy Spirit? 

I don’t need signs and wonders to know that the Holy Spirit indwells each and every person the moment they accept Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. The Bible tells me that the Holy Spirit indwells---without me asking , nor did the disciples ask in Acts---–because God said that is what happens, and there is no mention of tongues.

Ephesians 1: 13  In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,

1 Corinthians 3: 16  Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

I’d like to point out some Scriptural issues for you to consider carefully. If you are as Scripturally oriented as you suggest, I’m sure you’ll welcome the concept of looking at the Word of God to either validate or negate our beliefs.

Psalm 119:89   For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven.

John 17: 17  Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

I’m taking the liberty of taking excerpts [and paraphrasing some ideas] from Cathy Burns book, Tongues, Prosperity & Godhood, along with my own thoughts.

According to the Scriptures we must determine what the ‘gift of tongues' means. Every single time the Scriptures refer to tongues it is always concerning an actual, known and spoken language. There is no such thing taught in the Bible as “UNKNOWN TONGUES.” The only place in the entire King James Bible that mentions unknown tongues is in 1 Corinthians 14: 2,4,13,14,19, & 27. 

If you look carefully at these verses you will notice that the word unknown is in italics. This means that the word unknown was not in the original manuscripts, it was added by the translators to make it easier to read.  Each verse reads then, ‘in a tongue’ instead of in “an unknown tongue.” These tongues Paul is referring to are actual and known languages. You can easily see that tongues that were given on the day of Pentecost—not sought after or desired—in Acts 2:4 were a KNOWN language, by someone, somewhere in the world.

We find that the gift of tongues was given instantaneously and without being sought for at Jerusalem. (Acts 2:4), Caesarea (Acts 10:45), Ephesus (Acts 19:6) and we know that the Corinthians were also speaking in tongues. Besides Mark 16:17, these are the only places in the Bible where we find this gift mentioned, and no where do we find a verse that states that this is evidence that one has the Holy Spirit.

Acts 2:4-11 shows why tongues were given at that time. There were Devout men out of every nation under heaven present at Jerusalem that day (v.5) and these people were able to hear the gospel of Christ preached to them in their native tongue—the language of their country ( v. 6, 8, 11) Verses 9-11 even tell the countries and that those who spoke in those KNOWN LANGUAGES were proclaiming the “wonderful works of God”. It was not showing that they had the Holy Spirit per se—it was for spreading the Gospel. The result was that about 3000 people were saved and added to the church (v 41)

Acts 10:45 also mentions the gift of tongues. Cornelius a Gentile, was a DEVOUT man who feared God (Acts 10:2), so God sent Peter to speak to him. According to Acts 10:44b-46, God allowed this Gentile to speak in another language. One reason one can see for that, is to show the Jews that God is not a respecter of persons. (Acts 10:34, Romans 2:11, Ephesians 6:9, Colossians 3:25) The apostles criticized Peter for going to the Gentiles (Acts 11:1-18,) but Peter told them how the Lord had sent him to Cornelius and how God had visited the Gentiles. The result was Acts 11:18. So the gift of tongues was given as a SIGN to prove that BOTH the Jew and the Gentile were acceptable before God. Romans 3:29.

Regardless of the languages given to Cornelius, Caesarea was a commercial city with vast number of foreigners. God knew what he was doing in allowing Cornelius and many others to speak another language so foreigners would hear the gospel in their own language and be converted to Christ.

Acts 19:6 , Ephesus, provides another instance where the gift of tongues—a KNOWN language—was given. The 12 men had been baptized into John’s baptism but they had not heard that the Holy Ghost had come. Paul expounded unto them how John had foretold of Christ and  v. 19:5 -- When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. The Holy Ghost then descended upon them and these men also spoke in another language. Again, Ephesus was also a great commercial center with lots of foreigners. According to The Life and Epistles of Paul, Ephesus was Greek in origin, half-Oriental in the prevalent worship and in the character of its inhabitants.

The above instances are the only 3 places in the Bible where the gift of tongues was actually given. There is mention of tongues in 1 Corinthians 12-14, but no actual case of it being given. Notice the difference.

Corinth was a very immoral city. In The Biblical World , we read that Corinth: “…had a reputation of moral corruption to the point where ‘Corinthian girl’ came to mean prostitute…Ritual prostitution in the temple of Aphrodite on the Acropolis…was in part responsible for this reputation…The temple of Venus was not only very splendid, but also very rich and… maintained...not less that 1000 courtesans [prostitutes], who were the means of bringing an immense concourse of strangers to the place. Thus riches produced luxury and luxury a total corruption of manners…”

Corinth served as the crossroad between east and west. The Pulpit Commentary states that Jews, Phoenicians, Romans and Greeks flocked there, “…men of pleasure to avail themselves of the immorality for which it soon became infamous…Greeks…became proverbial for litigious shrewdness, intellectual restlessness, and above all, sensual indulgence…”

The Corinthian church had many problems and spiritual shortcomings which Paul addresses.

  1. I Cor. 12:2—origin and background were idolatrous
  2. 3:2-4—they were yet carnal
  3. 5:1—they were fornicators
  4. 5:2—they were puffed up
  5. 6:7-8---full of strife and contention
  6. 6:7-8—they did wrong and defrauded their own brethren
  7. 11:18—they had divisions among them
  8. 11:19—they held false doctrines
  9. 11:20-34---they ate and drank the Lord’s supper unworthily
  10. 15:12---some denied the resurrection

This is the type of church which sought after the gift of tongues. Since there were many foreigners in Corinth, the speaking of other languages was advantageous and could be used for the furtherance of the gospel. Paul in great detail set down very important points and actually, commandments, about speaking in another language. In 1 Cor. 12, he stated he didn’t want them ignorant of spiritual things and reminds them that they were Gentiles who had come from an idolatrous background. He explains there are different gifts, but the same God gives these different gifts for “every man to profit withal”. In other words, the gifts were to profit the body—not ourselves. 

Further to that Paul shows, in v 8-10, that God gives to every person the gift or gifts that HE chooses. The gifts received are not by OUR choice, but by GOD'S choice.

Paul then details the different parts of the body noting that not all can be teachers  and so on, to the exclusion of other gifts. We can’t all speak in ‘tongues” to the exclusion of teachers. EACH particular gift is needed. Paul set down priorities by saying that God has ordained the apostles FIRST or Foremost. The prophets are listed second and the teachers third. Now, AFTER THAT miracles, THEN gifts of healing, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. 1 Cor 12:28. You can see that tongues comes in LAST on this list and is not mentioned as evidence of the Holy Spirit. Nor is it mentioned that all will do it.

Starting with v 29, Paul asks some questions.  The Greek has a “me” (me) before each of these questions which means the answer to each question should be "No”.  Therefore, these verses in the original read something like this:

“29  Are all apostles? (No) are all prophets? (No) are all teachers? (No) are all workers of miracles? (No) 30  Have all the gifts of healing? (No)  do all speak with tongues? (No)  do all interpret? (No)

Clearly then, not everyone speaks in tongues or other languages, therefore “tongues” COULD NOT be a sign of a believer’s salvation or sanctification. Paul then adds: “12:31  But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet show I unto you a more excellent way."

The more excellent way is not speaking in tongues, but love. He states: 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."

I Cor 13:1 Paul stated "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." –Paul didn’t say he spoke the tongues of angels----it was a comparison that even if he could---without love it would be worthless.

Keeping in mind that Corinth was filled with foreigners, and various cultures and languages were represented, the Corinthian church had many people in its assembly that spoke languages that others in the church did not.  Paul even said that he wished they could all speak in other tongue/languages, but that he would still rather that they could prophesy. “5  I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.”

Verse 9-11 explains why---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. Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me."

Paul is saying that if he would speak Hebrew and the person he was speaking to only understood Greek that he would be a barbarian or foreigner to him and that he in turn would be a foreigner to Paul. He even states that if he were to speak a tongue/language that his listeners did not know that it would be like speaking into the air. V 9.

It’s useless and unbiblical to speak a language  to someone unless that person knows the language or there is an interpreter who can translate it to the rest of the congregation.  Paul did say that those who spoke other languages should pray that they may also be able to interpret those languages to those people present. V 13.  The word “interpret” in the Greek is “diermeneuo” (diermeneuo) and means “to explain thoroughly” or “translate fully”. 

What happens in many Pentecostal and Charismatic churches today is that a person gets up and says something {so-called speaking in tongues}. No one really knows what is said but someone else all of a sudden receives a ‘special revelation’ and then tells the church what the person ‘SUPPOSEDLY’ said. This IS NOT the biblical teaching on tongues. NO ONE should even speak in another language UNLESS he is aware that an interpreter is there to FULLY AND COMPLETELY EXPLAIN what he has said. No one is to wait for a so-called “revelation”. What was spoken is to be TRANSLATED AND EXPLAINED THOROUGHLY. Furthermore, there is no need for tongues or translation when all present speak and know the same language.

1 Cor. 14:18-19---Paul spoke several different languages, but said he would rather speak five words that he knew someone else would understand than to speak 10,000 words in a language that a particular person did not know. 

Take careful note---Paul even informs us that the gift of tongues IS NOT a sign for the BELIEVER but for the UNBELIEVER. V 22.  This verse alone does away with the assumption that the gift of tongues is a sign that is needed to prove that a person has received the Holy Ghost. Not only was there a SPECIFIC TIME AND PLACE when this gift was to be used, but Paul also explains that if someone was going to speak in another language during the service,  that an interpreter HAD TO BE PRESENT. V.28.  He also states that NO MORE than two or at THE VERY MOST three people during any service could speak in another language, v 27.  Paul then specifically adds that “28  But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.” Paul  told these Corinthians not to forbid speaking in tongues, but “40  Let all things be done decently and in order.”

Today we have little need to be speaking in tongues as most North Americans speak English in our services and if only English speaking peoples are in the service, then we are to conduct our services accordingly. Paul also says “23  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?” Even though ACTUAL languages were being spoken, used excessively in a service when unbelievers were present would make an unbeliever think those in the church were crazy. The Greek word for mad is  “mainomai” (mainomai) and means “ to rave as a maniac.” This is what the world thinks of those who speak in tongues.

Therefore the use of tongues was to be limited in the Corinthian churches, especially when unbelievers were present. There was a time and place when it could and could not be used. Advocates of “speaking in tongues” do not follow the rules—God commands—therefore they are unscriptural in their so-called use of tongues. Many proponents of ‘tongues’ do not believe [that the Biblical tongues] are ACTUAL languages, but rather a ‘babbling” which often resembles baby talk.

Pentecostals and Charismatics tell us that one will speak in tongues as proof he or she has received the Holy Ghost. 

The magazine Pentecostal Minister: “ Tongues are still what used to be called the ‘initial evidence’. To profess to have received the Spirit-baptism without having exercised them is rather like claiming to be wed without being able to produce your marriage certificate.” 

Ian Macpherson continues: “ In themselves tongues are ONLY A SERIES OF SOUNDS, more or less rhythmic and melodious…they are THE INDISPENSABLE SIGN of having received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. “ He also stated: “ To disclaim your right to a personal glossolalic Pentecost {speaking in tongues} is therefore tantamount to denying the call of God in your life.”

Either these statements are true or false. Either speaking in these ‘tongues’ is evidence of the Holy Ghost or it is not.  Pentecostals claim that the baptism with the Holy Ghost means one will speak in tongues.  Looking to the Bible,  [let's] refer to the passages where the Holy Ghost was given and see if tongues are mentioned.

Luke 1:15---For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb.

If Pentecostals are correct then, John the Baptist spoke tongues in the womb BEFORE he was ever born.

Luke 1:41---Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost and Luke 1:67 says Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost but neither place states they spoke in tongues—rather Elizabeth spoke in her own language and Zacharias prophesied in his own tongue/language.

Luke 2:25—Simeon had the Holy Ghost upon him—tongues is not mentioned

According to the arguments of Pentecostals and Charismatics, Elizabeth, John,  Zacharias and Simeon could not have been filled with the Holy Ghost—meaning they must not believe the Word of God, which is true, and which says they were filled with the Holy Ghost.

John baptized with water and the One that was coming would baptize with the Holy Ghost--Luke 3:16---are tongues mentioned?

The Holy Ghost descended on Christ in the shape of a dove but we are never told that Jesus spoke in tongues Luke 3:22.

After Christ was glorified we see that He was imparted to believers but in only three instances were actual cases of speaking in tongues mentioned—all listed and discussed above.

John 20:22---after Christ’s resurrection, he appeared to His disciples and “he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:” This is the first instance after his resurrection and glorification that the Holy Ghost is given, yet there is no mention of tongues. If speaking in tongues was so important as ‘proof’ of being baptized with the Holy Ghost, why is it that tongues are not mentioned in instance after instance?

Acts 1:5-8 Jesus explained what would happen when the Holy Ghost would be given. The disciples did speak in tongues---“as the Spirit gave them utterance”  They did not SEEK the gift and they did not babble [ahead of time] in order to speak in tongues, but it was a gift that glorified God and was used to witness to men of other nations who spoke other languages.

Acts 4:8---mention of being filled with the Holy Ghost but there is no indication of tongues. Shouldn’t there be some Biblical consistency if tongues was proof of the Holy Spirit [or being called by God]?

Acts 5:42 states the Holy Ghost is given “ to them that obey Him” but do you see where these people will speak in tongues when He is given? I don’t.

When trouble arose in the church, seven men were appointed whose requirements were that they be honest, full of the Holy Ghost and wise, but nowhere are we told that these men spoke in tongues Acts 6:1-5. Odd, don’t you think, if tongues was the proof that they belonged to God or were filled with the Holy Ghost? That should have taken the preeminence in the qualifications.

Stephen was the first martyr and filled with the Holy Ghost—but nowhere does it say he spoke in tongues. (Acts 6:3; 7:55)

Acts 8 tells of Philip who preached at Samaria and many ‘received the Holy Ghost v 17—but we are not told that anyone spoke in tongues.

Chapter 10 of Acts gives us the account of Saul being filled with the Holy Ghost. Speaking in tongues IS NOT mentioned.  Has it occurred to you that you cannot Biblically prove that speaking in tongues is the same as being filled with the Holy Ghost?  

If this sign of tongues is needed to prove “ a call of God in your life” it certainly would appear that many men of God recorded in the Scriptures were not called at all.  The call of God was on many people through the ages, before the Holy Ghost was even given His fullness. Are we to assume that Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel and David and all the other prophets could not have received a call from God because they did not speak in tongues?

David wrote---11  Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.

Many other instances are given throughout Scripture but you don’t find mention of tongues and the Holy Ghost together other than what is found in Acts 2:4, 10:45 and 19:6. Acts 10:38 tells us that Jesus had the Holy Ghost but we are never told that He spoke in tongues. Barnabas, Saul, and many Gentiles (Acts 15:7-9, Romans 15:16) all received the Holy Ghost and none of these instances mention tongues. Paul wrote 13 or 14 books of the Bible, but only 1 Corinthians deals with this subject. John wrote 5 books, Peter wrote 2, James, Jude, Luke, Matthew, Mark all wrote, yet none of these men thought of or thought it essential that this “proof” be expounded on. Could it be that these  “holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” 2 Peter 1:21, or that they just didn’t preach the “full gospel”? Or , did these men write what God told them to and the Pentecostals and Charismatics added something that was never meant to be added?

The Bible warns  Proverbs 30:6  Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.

Speaking in tongues CANNOT BE the SIGN of the Holy Ghost’s complete infilling because the Corinthian church spoke in tongues and Paul said that these people were “yet carnal” because there was “envying and strife and divisions” among them. 1 Cor 3:1-3

In fact, if tongues is proof of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit we shouldn’t be able to see tongue speakers such as Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggert and so many others committing adultery, lying and so on—all the while speaking tongues.

I could go further, but I think, if you are truly seeking the Truth in God’s Word, this is enough to think about.  Being sincere doesn’t make one right, it just makes one sincerely wrong. I’ve asked Pentecostals—who will never answer the question---if the Holy Spirit prays for us in words that cannot be uttered—can those words be spoken through our lips? 

If tongues are so of God, and all gifts are for the edification of the body, how does your tongue speaking edify me?—because quite frankly, I have yet to be edified when hearing someone babbling something incoherent, while praying or otherwise. 

Lastly, if tongues is so of God, why do so many hide the fact that they speak in tongues in "private prayer language" and so on—when again—all gifts were for the edification of the Body of Christ?

May the Lord open your understanding to His Scriptural truths.


For dialogue with a former charismatic, dealing with tongues, see: Memorable Correspondences > Experience of tongues

Copyright . All articles are the sole property of and Vicky Dillen. All Scripture King James Version unless otherwise stated.

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