Lesson 18

"Speaking In Tongues!

There are several of the major denominations today, and in fact, the number is growing everyday, who believe that in order for you to be saved, you
must experience the gift of tongues. Now if you go to these people and ask them as bluntly as I have stated this, most of them would deny it, but
they really do feel just that strongly about the gift of tongues. They reason that you are justified when you accept Jesus as your personal Savior, just
like most of the other denominations, but to this they add that you must also be sanctified in order to go to heaven, and the Bible certainly does
teach that sanctification is a mandatory part of our salvation. But how do we interpret what sanctification is? As always, we want to go to God's
Word for the answer!

The Bible teaches that sanctification is the process whereby we are changed, and actually cleansed from the filthy habits of our sins. Justification
is the forgiveness for our sins, and we understand that justification happens immediately and instantly, but because sanctification is the process
of changing our bad habits into good habits, we say that it is the work of a lifetime. All of the bad habits of our lives of sin, are not necessarily
changed the moment that we become Christians. Here is where we differ with many of the so called Pentecostal churches. So many of them
believe that sanctification is instant like justification. In fact, they believe that sanctification takes place, when they are baptized in the Holy Spirit, or
the Holy Ghost as they seem to prefer. They teach that there are several evidences of the outpouring or baptism of the Holy Ghost, but that there is
one evidence of this gift that is always present, the gift of speaking in unknown tongues. Hence, they really do believe that you must speak in
tongues in order to be saved.

 

As we begin to look at this important subject, I would like for us to draw a simple little illustration from the very first occurrence of the speaking of
tongues in the Bible. It is found in Acts 2:3-4 "And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance."

In these very verses, which are so important to the Pentecostal, or Charismatic Christian, there are two different uses of the word tongues. BUT
first, let me assure you that these are indeed the exact same word in the original language. (1100. glossa, gloce'-sah; of uncert. affin.; the tongue;
by impl. a language (spec. one naturally unacquired):--tongue., Strong's Exhaustive Concordance) So if we take these verses literally, we have to
decide what definition to attach to them, for there are more than one definition for the word tongues. Did these men literally speak with someone
else's tongue? Did they see cloven languages like as of fire? You see, we MUST decide which usage of the word by reading the context of the
passage, and deciding which one fits.

 

Will you agree with me that there has to be a little more understanding applied to these verses? Will you agree with me that we will have to use a
little common sense in dealing with this issue?

 

Some churches believe in this "Pentecostal" gift of speaking in tongues, and some churches don't, but I think that most all of the churches lack a
basic knowledge of what took place in the early apostolic church. A church that doesn't believe in the speaking in tongues at all, is wrong. BUT
those who believe in the speaking in tongues as we have described above are almost surely to be swept away by the spiritualistic deceptions of
Satan. What is the truth about speaking in tongues? What actually took place on the day of Pentecost? Let's look into God's great book and find out!

1. When was the first recorded occurrence of the gift of tongues? Acts 2:1

The day of Pentecost, was a Jewish festival at the time of Christ and His disciples. It is called the feast of first fruits in Leviticus 23:15-17. The name Pentecost means fiftieth, and signifies the time that the first fruits were to be brought: "unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the LORD." This was one of the feasts that was attended by Jews from all over the then known world. Even though they had been scattered throughout the nations, Jewish men were commanded to return to Jerusalem, to the temple, and to attend the yearly feasts. Thus there were Jews in Jerusalem at this time that spoke the languages of the many nations they represented, rather than Hebrew. The problem: Members of the Jewish religion were meeting together, but many of them did not speak the local language, which was Greek. How would the apostles communicate the gospel of Jesus to them? Let's look into the background of this story to really understand what is happening here.

2. What was the promise of the Father, which Jesus again told to His disciples just before His ascension? Acts 1:4-5

Jesus promised the baptism of the Holy Ghost "not many days hence," and in fact it would be only 10 more days until the day of Pentecost "was
fully come."

3. Jesus promised the disciples power, after the Holy Ghost would come upon them. What was this power to help them to become? Acts 1:8

These are the very last words of Jesus, to His infant church, before ascending to heaven. If you were leaving to go on a long trip, and leaving your sons at home to take care of your business, and interests, you would certainly make sure and go over, or remind them of the things that were most important, just before you left. Most everyone has experienced this in some way or another. Here, Jesus is going over something of vital importance to the newly forming church: the gift of the Holy Spirit, which would make them witnesses unto all the world!

4. Where do we next find the disciples? Acts 1:13

Notice that the disciples are now in "one accord" and in one place. They are praying and making supplication to God for the promised gift of His
Spirit. This is a marked difference from the same disciples on the night before Jesus' crucifixion, about one month earlier (see Luke 22:24).

5. What does the Bible tell us that they accomplished while there? Acts 1:23-26

Peter led the disciples in replacing Judas, so that there would still be 12 disciples to witness for Jesus, and to lead out in this new organization;
the Christian Church.

6. On the Day of Pentecost, where were the disciples? Acts 2:1

Notice that the disciples were still apparently in the upper room where they were all together, and all of "one accord!"

7. What happened to the disciples just before they began to speak in tongues?        Acts 2:4

Verse 3 says: "And there appeared unto them cloven tongues [plural] like as of fire, and it [singular] sat upon each of them." The Holy Spirit was
given in a visible form, similar to when Jesus was baptized and the Spirit appeared as a dove. This was done as a sign to God's people of the
authenticity of this blessing. But notice that it isn't the tongues of fire that sat upon each of these disciples, but it was the Holy Spirit that came upon
each one of them. The gift of tongues on the day of Pentecost was a necessary gift, to do the work of sharing the gospel with these people who
could not understand, due to the language barrier.

8. How many of the different nations did the Jews come from for the day of Pentecost? Acts 2:5

9. Did the disciples speak to the people in an unknown tongue? Acts 2:6-8

The gift that was given on the day of Pentecost was a very practical one. There was a language barrier, and the gift of tongues made it so that every
one of the men from foreign lands were able to understand what the disciples were saying about Jesus, and especially what the apostle Peter
would say during this famous sermon.

Note that the Bible says this was a direct fulfillment of the words of the prophet Joel. Compare Acts 2:16-21 with Joel 2:28-32. It is also interesting
to notice that the Bible likens the gift of tongues, and preaching of the gospel here to the prophetic gift, but there is nothing in this chapter that
foretells the future. This prophetic gift is that of preaching the truth of the prophecies of the Bible. Not giving a new message to the people, but
simply preaching the message that is already given in the Scriptures. Peter is informing the Jews of the truth about how Jesus perfectly fulfilled the
prophecies of the coming Messiah.

 

Today, the gift of prophecy is not always the giving of a new message from God, or the telling of future events, but most often, it is the preaching of
the prophetic messages that are already there in the Bible. The world, and the church are shamefully ignorant of these prophetic messages, but God has ordained that His people in these last days would be studying and preaching about the great prophecies of the end!

10. Was this preaching successful? Acts 2:41

Few preachers, or evangelists have ever seen such a wonderful harvest for the work of God! We should learn the lesson that the most important
ingredient in teaching the Word of God is the presence of His Holy Spirit (see 1 Corinthians 2:14).

You don't hear it quite so much now, but a few years ago, the independent "Pentecostal" churches called themselves "full gospel" churches. They
would quickly tell you that most churches only followed four gospels, but that the Bible contained another gospel the book of acts. And they are
pretty much right about that, the book of Acts is to the apostles, what the four gospels were to Christ. The four gospels were sort of the Acts of
Jesus, and the next comes the Acts of the Apostles.

 

But for all the attention that is supposedly paid to the book of Acts by these Pentecostal churches, and of all the importance that they place on the
gift of speaking in tongues, did you know that these tongues are only reported in the book of Acts but three times? In twenty-eight chapters of
action packed stories of the early apostolic church, there are only three times that it mentions speaking in tongues. Could it be that the great
importance given to this subject is overestimated? At the very least, I will tell you that it has certainly been misunderstood.

 

We are going to take a look at all of the Bible verses dealing with the subject of tongues.

11. In Mark 16:15, what does Jesus command His disciples to do?

Think about it... This is perfectly consistent with what we have seen about the day of Pentecost. The disciples were given the gift of tongues to help
them preach the gospel to all the world.

12. What is the gift of tongues referred to as in verse 17?

The gift of tongues is listed as a sign that would follow the disciples who were preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world. On first reading, it would seem that Jesus is commanding His disciples to speak with tongues, just as they are to fulfill the other parts of the gospel commission. It seems really plain, but let's read on: Mark 16:18 "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."

I would suggest to you that if speaking in tongues is a mandatory part of the gospel of Jesus Christ, then evidently snake handling is too. Why are not all these "Pentecostal" churches handling snakes? Most all Christians can see that they are not being commanded to take up snakes, but they are being promised that if they do come into contact with a serpent, they will be protected. Neither do we think that we are suppose to drink deadly poison on purpose. The promise that is given here is that if need be, the Lord will protect us from even something such as a deadly poison.

 

In these verses, Jesus gives the gospel commission, and then He tells just a few examples of the wonderful miracles that would happen as a result of the power of His Spirit in the early church. Ask yourself this question: Are these three things in verses 17-18 the only signs that were to take place in Christ's church? Aren't there other signs and miracles that happened in the apostolic church? Jesus' statement was not meant to be exclusive, and neither was it meant to be arbitrary. These were not the only miracles that took place, and therefore it is not to be taken that each and every
believer in Christ would have the exact same experience. As we go along today, we will plainly see this, not everyone was to speak in tongues, for not everyone would need the gift of tongues.

13. Who was the certain man mentioned in Acts 10:1?

This man was a Roman centurion of the Italian band, and therefore was a Gentile; not a Jew.

14. What kind of man was he? Acts 10:2

Acts chapter 10 is devoted to telling the story of the spiritual conversion of Cornelius, and the intellectual conversion of Peter. Peter was given the vision of the unclean animals in the sheet to teach him that the racism and prejudice of the Jews against the Gentiles was wrong. He says: "God hath showed me that I should not call any man common or unclean." And again he exclaims: "Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:" But there needed to be a sign that would show the other Jewish converts that these Gentiles were genuine converts to the faith.

15. As he met with Peter, what wonderful thing happened to Cornelius? Acts 10:44

They studied daily to see if what they were hearing was right or wrong. What a revolution would take place today in the religious world if those who attend the various churches of the land would begin to study the Bible to see if what is taught in their church is according to the Scriptures. Not everyone is interested in following the good example set by the Bereans. Let us make a covenant with God that we will use the same method to determine what is truth!

16. Why were the Jews astonished at this? Acts 10:45

Up until this time, the newly forming church was made up of converts from the Jewish religion. These Jews had been taught, all their life, to stay apart from the Gentile nations around them. God had truly instructed them not to intermarry, or get to close to the heathen idol worshippers all around them. BUT it was always God's plan that His chosen people would be a light to the other nations of the world.


God loves the unbelievers as much as He loves His own people. He wants us to spend good quality time with them so that we might win them over to His kingdom. BUT He doesn't want us conforming our lives to their ways!

17. What sign let the Jews know that the conversion and experience of these Gentile members was legitimate? Acts 10:46

Now we see the other reason for the gift of tongues in the early church. The gift of tongues was given as a sign to the early church, which lived in persecution and constant danger, but it was a sign that the Gentiles had indeed accepted the truth, and been filled with the Holy Spirit.

18. Is there anything in this text which would suggest unknown tongues?

19. What does Paul say that the gift of tongues was given for? 1 Corinthians 14:22

The first time the gift of tongues was displayed, it was done so that the disciples could break the language barrier and preach the gospel to the devout Jews from every corner of the earth. The second time, it was to convince these prejudiced Jews that God had poured out His Holy Spirit on the Gentiles just as He had done to them. Most of the Jews were of the opinion that Gentiles were unclean and unsavable. They thought that they had a monopoly on God and salvation. But God gave them this miracle as a sign that the Gentiles were to be accepted into the faith.

So we have two distinct reasons for the gift of tongues: 1] to bridge the language barrier, 2] as a sign. -- As we go through these verses, notice that these are the only two reasons for the gift of tongues, and that each and every time the gift of tongues is mentioned, one of these two reasons will apply.

20. In Acts 19:1, while Apollos is at Corinth, where was Paul at?

Ephesus was a town of ancient Asia, on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. It was almost entirely composed of Gentiles.

21. What does Paul ask the Ephesian disciples? Acts 19:2

These faithful disciples of John the Baptist had never heard of the Holy Ghost. As you read this chapter, it becomes painfully clear that they had received only a partial gospel.

22. As Paul preached the full gospel to them, what did they decided to do? Acts 19:5

23. What later happened to them when Paul laid hands on them? Acts 19:6

Notice that again these are Gentiles converts, and the gift of tongues was manifested to show their sincerity.

24. Is there anything in this text which would suggest unknown tongues?

25. What is the subject of 1 Corinthians 12? The answer is found in 1 Corinthians 12:1

26. Is the Holy Spirit given to every believer? 1 Corinthians 12:7

27. Does every believer receive the same gift of the spirit? 1 Corinthians 12:8-11; 28-31

Regardless of what we understand the gift of tongues to be, this text plainly tells us that every true believer will NOT have this gift! And yet in many churches, this so called manifestation is made to be a test. I will never forget going to my grandmother's funeral. She was a member of one of these "Pentecostal" churches. She was 94 years old when she died, and she had accepted Christ as her personal Savior at the tender age of 14. What a wonderful testimony! 80 years of faithfulness and service to the cause of Christ! But the Pentecostal preacher at her funeral never mentioned this, he only boasted of 25 or so years since she had been filled with the Holy Ghost and spoke in tongues!

28. As Paul continues this message in chapter 13, what is the one gift, he says, that will never fail? 1 Corinthians 13:8

Paul tells us that the other gifts will fail from time to time. He mentions the gift of tongues, by name in this verse, as ceasing (verse 8), and in verse 1, he tells us that without love (charity) the gift of tongues is just a lot of noise!

Paul's message continues on into the next chapter (14). Please read this chapter very carefully. While it is too lengthy to cover every verse here (tongues are mentioned 16 times in 15 of the verses), there are a few things that should be pointed out.

29. If no man is present to understand the tongue, who only will know what is being said? 1 Corinthians 14:2

This verse says "unknown tongue," but notice that the word unknown is in italics. This means that the word wasn't in the original text, but was added by the translators to help with the understanding. If you speak a language such as French in a group of people where not one person understands French, then French becomes an unknown tongue! But many churches have jumped to the conclusion that this is some mysterious language that only God and His angels know. If this were true, why is this the only place in the Bible where it is mentioned (6 times in 1 Corinthians 14). It is much more logical to realize that this speaking in tongues is the same as the other places that we have looked at in the Bible, and refers to other languages.

30. Who are we seeking to edify (build up) when we speak in an unknown tongue?      1 Corinthians 14:4

In verse 5, we see that the church in Ephesus already had a problem with it's members speaking in tongues for no good reason. Paul wishes that they all would have the gift of tongues and speak using them, for that would mean they were preaching the gospel to others, but he says they are wasting their time, speaking in other languages, if there is no one there to understand it all!

31. What kind of words should we be speaking? 1 Corinthians 14:9

This is right in line with what Jesus said in Matthew 5:37 "But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil." Jesus taught that we should be simple and plain forward in our speech!

32. Did Paul desire to speak in an unknown tongue, or with understanding?                 1 Corinthians 14:19

Notice in verse 21 Paul uses the words "other tongues," while the word "unknown" in the surrounding verses was supplied by the Bible translators.

33. What should someone do if there is no interpreter for the tongue that they are speaking? 1 Corinthians 14:28

This would be true, no matter what the language! If that French person came to church, and no one else spoke French, there would be nothing to gain from having him speak to the church in French!

 

There are two other verses in this chapter that bear reading: 1 Corinthians 14:33"For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints." and 1 Corinthians 14:40 "Let all things be done decently and in order."

 

Here is found one of the great problems with the Pentecostal style of worship. Things are not done decently or orderly. There is shouting, screaming, laughing and crying,. There is commotion of every kind; jumping, running, dancing, and falling. Even the prayers are a bedlam of noise, with everyone talking at the same time.

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So we have learned that God gave the gift of tongues for two reasons, and two reasons only. 1] to bridge the language barrier, 2] and as a sign, so as to overcome the prejudice between Jew and Gentile.

Do either of these needs still exist today? I mean, do we still have this language barrier to overcome? NO, there are dedicated preachers giving the gospel message in every land upon the face of the whole earth. You understand that in the beginning of the church, there were 120 Palestinian Jews that were commissioned to give the gospel to the whole world, but in our day we have literally thousands and thousand of educated missionaries, and not only that, but we have trained people in every land. In other words we have local "natives" all over the globe which are giving the gospel in their own tongue.

Do we need a miraculous sign to convince the Jews of the true conversion of the Gentiles? NO, there are many more Gentiles than Jews today, and this is not logical.

In my mind, I think of it somewhat like Cain's wife. I often have people ask me: "Where did Cain get his wife from?" What seems like such a perplexing question at first, is so very simple. In the infancy of this world, when all life originated with Adam and Eve, it is obvious that it was necessary that Cain must have taken a sister as a wife. The Bible doesn't take the time to tell us all the details, but then what more does it need to tell us?

 

The gift of tongues was a necessary gift in the beginning of the church. We can see two sound reasons for its existence. But where is the necessity of the gift now? What reason does the gift of tongues fulfill for God's church today? Just because Cain married his sister, do we have to marry our sister?

 

Ask yourself this question: "Where has the gift of tongues been for the last 2000 years? Now I will grant you, that during the great apostasy that has taken place in the middle ages, all the great truths of the Bible were lost, but why was not the gift of tongues present during the Protestant Reformation? If there is any era in church history, since the days of the apostles, when some signal evidence of divine presence might have been expected, surely it is the time of the sixteenth-century Reformation. There was a great outpouring of the Spirit of God during the days of Luther, and we know that God was working mightily through the reformers, and yet there is no record anywhere of the gift of tongues.

Here are some related texts that might prove helpful when considering the charismatic, or Pentecostal movement: Romans 2:28-29; Matthew 23:27; Galatians 5:22-23; Revelation 16:14-15; Matthew 24:24; 2 Corinthians 11:13-15