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The Scriptural View of the Modern Day Tongues Movement

by Pastor Doug Dugan, with some editing for clarity by Vicky Dillen

The modern day tongues movement has the element of excitement, but it lacks the element of Bible authority.  Though some erroneously claim that speaking in the unknown tongue is the evidence of the fulness of the Holy Spirit they do err in not knowing the Scriptures.  The use of tongues in the Bible was always the use of known languages.  The most in depth Bible teaching on the use of tongues is found in 1 Corinthians 12-14.  These three chapters provide the premier Biblical look at the issue of tongues.  The church of Corinth was a multicultural church in a multicultural city.  Travelers from all over the world frequented the city.  

In the church it would be common to have people present who had learned two or more languages.  These skills were essential to the massive trade business of Corinth.  The practice of speaking in the church in languages known and used extensively in some parts of the world, but relatively unknown in Corinth had become a problem.  The problem was a pride problem.  “Look at me with respect.  I have earned it through my diligent study of languages.”  The truth is, we are still impressed by those that can speak more than one language because most of have so much trouble with our native tongue.

An “unknown tongue” as used in the Bible is a reference to languages not known to the speaker, but a language known and practiced by others.  The example of Pentecost makes this clear.  On the day of Pentecost Peter and the apostles preached (Acts 2:14).  These men were all Galilaeans (Acts 2:7), most fishermen by trade (Mt. 4:18-19) and thus largely unlearned. (Acts 4:13).  Yet, on the day of Pentecost the crowd was filled with devout Jews from every nation under heaven (Acts 2:5).  When Peter and the others preached this international crowd heard them in their own languages (Acts 2:6).  These many languages and dialects are even listed for us in the chapter (Acts 2:9-11).  The languages heard were known to the hearers, but not to the speakers.  There was not gibberish being spoken.  This was not babble being muttered, this was the work of God to confirm that there were no barriers to winning souls to Jesus Christ.

The early church was comprised of Jews that followed Jesus Christ.  There was a mindset amongst these Jewish converts that only Jews within the promised land could be saved.  They were not interested in reaching Gentiles or Jews that had left the promised land.  As we read through the book of Acts and even the epistles we see that there was a constant battle in convincing the early church that they need not practice Judaism.

Pentecost was the work of the Holy Spirit to convince the early church that Jews could be saved even if they did not make their residence in the promised land.  Thus Jews from every nation under heaven heard the Word of God and three thousand were saved, baptized, and added to the church.

The specific purpose for the gift of tongues was for a sign, see 1 Corinthians 14:22.  "Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: ..."  The use of the gift of tongues was for the purpose of providing a sign to them that believed not.  We learn in the Scriptures that the first Jewish followers of Jesus Christ had a great difficulty understanding the offer of salvation was to everyone.

Remember that Jews had been raised to believe that only the Jewish nation was to be blessed by the Lord.  They were after all God’s chosen people.  Furthermore there was difficulty in accepting that salvation could be possessed by Jews outside of the Promised Land.  The gift of tongues was given as a sign for the purpose of convincing these first Christians that salvation was available to all, a truth that these first Christians believed not.  The gift of tongues was given by the Lord to serve a specific purpose.  Every time we find the gift of tongues being used in the Bible it was to fulfill the specific purpose for which God had given it.  The only exception to this is in the church of Corinth where they were rebuked for their man made emotionally driven manifestation of the use of their own manufactured counterfeit of God's true gift.

The next time we see the Holy Spirit employ the gift of tongues it was as a sign to the early church that Gentiles could be saved, see Acts 10:34-48.  In verses 44-46 of this text we see how those of the circumcision, Jews, were astonished that the Gentiles could also receive the free gift of salvation and the indwelling Holy Spirit.  Once again we find that this gift was used for a sign to them that believed not.  It was the early church who believed not that the Gentiles could get saved and God by this sign showed them differently.

The final time we see the gift of tongues in operation as God intended it to be used is in Acts 19:1-6.  This time we find the disciples of John the Baptist who had believed John's doctrine and teaching.  The text describes them as certain disciples.  They are described as such because though they had believed John, they had not yet made Jesus their Saviour.  They were “certain disciples” disciples of John that had not even heard of the Holy Spirit that indwells the Believer.

Peter explained that the one whom John spoke of who was to come after John was Christ Jesus.  These disciples immediately made their decision for Jesus and they were baptized into the membership of the local body in the name of Jesus.  Paul laid his hands upon them and they spoke with other tongues and prophesied.  Once again the sign was given to confirm that these Ephesian disciples of John the Baptist could be saved.

Simply believing what John had preached concerning repentance and believing on one who would come after him was not the same as placing one's faith in Jesus personally.  We also see in this passage that there was no amazement, it is clear that the early church had learned that everyone needed to be witnessed to and everyone could be saved.  It mattered not if they were Jews in or out of the promised land; it mattered not if they were Gentiles; it mattered not if they were living in anticipation of the arrival of Him who had already come, if they would simply place their faith in Jesus Christ they would be saved.

We do not find the Holy Spirit utilizing the gift of tongues any more after this third time.  The next time we learn of tongues it is by way of Paul's rebuke to the Corinthian church.  Tongues were used by the Lord for a specific purpose...editor--that was to win unbeliever's to the Lord Jesus Christ, by them hearing 'the things of God', in their own language, so that they might be saved... The church received the sign of God that all the world could be saved. editor--We know that God is more than able to give a gift of language to anyone to proclaim the wonders and truth of God to unbelievers. It is totally under His discretion and the use and results are totally by God, and are not up to the person to practice by rote or demand to have it to prove they have the Holy Spirit. The Biblical gift of 'tongues' is not what is being seen in the Pentecostal or Charismatic camps. 

...  The Bible was not yet finished when Paul penned the inspired words of 1 Corinthians and thus he states in 13:9 “For we know in part and we prophesy in part.”  The Word of God was being completed in parts as Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21).  “But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.” 1 Corinthians 13:10  “Perfect” references the doing away with the “part” mentioned in 1 Corinthians 13:9,10.  “For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.”  These parts of the Bible brought forth through the use of prophecy compiled together as the perfect law of liberty (James 1:25).  The Psalmist confirms “that which is perfect” is the law of the Lord (Psalm 19:7)...

That which is occurring today in the modern day tongues movement needs to be rebuked with as much severity as Paul rebuked the pride filled church of Corinth for counterfeiting a ministry of the Holy Spirit.  The gift of tongues had become so useless by the time Paul wrote to the church of Corinth he said: “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.” (1Co 14:19).

It might interest you to know that satanic cults also speak in what sounds exactly like the unknown tongues of the Charismatic movement of our day.  One example of this is found in the O’ Timothy library and is as follows:

"Throughout Jamaica there is a class of people known as `Pocomania.' This word means `half-mad or a little mad.' They believe in all kinds of superstitions and practice all manner of evil. Since they are generally very poor, they usually worship in the open air. A very common sight here is to see groups of these people beating their drums and singing on the streets and along the roads. Last Sunday evening I saw five large groups in about as many city blocks. Often you can hear their drums beating until late at night. They speak in tongues and sing our choruses, and because of this it brings a great reproach upon the true Gospel and makes the preaching of the Gospel difficult."

If speaking in tongues is the evidence of the fulness of the spirit then my question is what spirit?  Because the devil’s crowd is filled with a spirit that moves them to speak in tongues too!  Perhaps we should return to Paul’s lesson for us: “Let all things be done decently and in order.”  1 Corinthians14:10.


Next Section:  Tongues

Previous Section: Pentecostal Tongues & "The Inner Ecstasy"

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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