I-Epistemology of Speaking in Tongues
- A. What is speaking in tongue?
- B. Where does it occur in the Bible?
II-Efficiency of Speaking in Tongues
- A. What is its purpose?
- B. What is its product?
III-Extinguishment of Speaking in Tongues
- A. What does the Bible says?
- B. What does the History implies?
The Church today is in the crucial stage of distinguishing the spiritual gifts which are necessary in the Christian living. The confusion still exists between the Evangelical Diaspora today as in the church of Corinth which had the same problem as we have. Seemingly the question of inquiry and curiosity about the spiritual gifts stay alive in the hearts of many Christians especially in the subject of Speaking of Tongues.
Sometimes this issue or problem becomes the jumping board of the enemy to divide us- Christians. It is sad to think that some churches divided because of misunderstanding in using the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The body of Christ is still divided because of the minor issues that cannot be reconciled because all of the philosophical, theological, and traditional biases that we have which we impose to each other. Like other Corinthian believers which divided the church because of the pride that they have and labeled themselves as good than the others. Also because of so love to the spectacular gifts or dynamic gifts, they looked down other people with other gifts. This is the sad thing that exists also today.
A Charismatic Christian leader once said and it goes like this; “You need to speak in tongues so that you can say to your self that you’ve been baptized by the Holy Spirit and it will testifies that you receive the Lord Jesus Christ.” Some churches erringly maintain that idea and belief. This is a grave mistake since not all people speak in tongues because not all people are gifted by the Holy Spirit this way. This irritates my ears and look for the answers and truth about the spectacular gifts that the Holy Spirit gives to the Church for its edification and expansion. It triggers me to be curious and to find the answer about this topic. What are the biblical tongues? Should we expect to see the gift of tongues practiced in the present day? Should believers seek the gift of tongues? These and other questions will be answered as we study tongues in Scripture. There are many areas to consider.
I cannot extensively study this subject because of time constrain. I will just discuss which is necessary to explain my points.
I- Epistemology of Speaking in Tongue
After the disciples were baptized in the Holy Spirit “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Ac. 2:4). When the apostles are filled with the Holy Spirit they become the Spirit’s mouthpiece by speaking in tongues (i.e., spoken foreign languages) to a large assembly of foreign Jews. Because the gift of tongues is greatly misunderstood in our day (primarily by Charismatics) it is important that we carefully define the biblical phenomenon of tongues.
Let’s first explore the semantic usage of Speaking in tongues in the Bible so that it will give enlightenment to us. The discussion of the subject in the Bible occurred in the writings of the apostle Paul-in the book of Corinthians; Luke-in the book of Acts; and Mark- in one of the gospel.
A. What is speaking in tongue?
Speaking in tongues is the New Testament phenomena where a person or persons speaks in a language that is unknown to him. This language is the other earthly languages (1 Cor. 13:1). It occurred in Acts 2 at Pentecost and also in the Corinthian church as is described in 1 Corinthians 14. This New Testament gift was given by the Holy Spirit to the Christian church and is for the purpose of the edification of the Body of Christ as well as for glorifying the Lord. (www.carm.org)
Wayne Grudem defines it as “a prayer or praise spoken in syllables not understood by speaker” (W.Grudem, Systematic Theology)
The term tongues (in Greek glossa, plural glossais) when used of human speech always refers to the speaking of actual human languages. In the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint) the word glossa occurs thirty times and always refers to real human languages. Mark used the word glōssais kainais in Mark 16:17 to describe the sign that the Lord Jesus Christ gave to His disciples. It means to speak new language or tongue. The New King James rendered it as “17And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues.” The questions that arise in this passage are; who will speak in tongues? Does it comprises the first century Christian or all the Christians? The Jews are sign seekers so that they will believe that it is from God. It is a must for them to see the sign from the God almighty. In the preceded verses the disciples had their doubt of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ but this is the sign of God’s work to their life that happened in Pentecost.
In the book of Acts where we are introduced to the supernatural phenomenon of tongues speaking, Luke emphasizes the fact that apostles were speaking real, known, human languages. “And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and was confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. Brian Schwertley said “The tongues were immediately understood by the hearers from several different Roman provinces and lands without any need for interpretation. This fact can only mean that the apostles were speaking real, normal languages. Remember the miracle or sign was in the speaking; not in the hearing. The hearers at this point were not even believers.”(www.reformedonline.com).
But the more serious problems arise in the interpretation of 1 Corinthians chapters 12-14. There are those who tell us that the tongues in First Corinthians are ecstatic utterances not known in any country on earth. They base their conclusion on the term “unknown” which appears in 1 Corinthians 14:2, 4, 13, 14, 19, and 27. But the reader of this chapter in God’s Word must not fail to observe that the word “unknown” in every place where it appears is in italicized letters, which means that it does not occur in any Greek manuscript but was inserted by translators. The Holy Spirit did not direct Paul to write that the tongue is unknown. It is a known language pertaining to the languages that exist in the world. It doesn’t mean that tongues is the language of heaven but it is language that is unknown to the speaker that’s why Paul said that it is tongues of men and of angels (I Corinthians 13:1) relating to the unknown language that’s in the world.
B. Where does it occur in the Bible?
In Mark 16:17, which records the instructions of Christ to the apostles, including his description that “they will speak with new tongues” as a sign that would follow “them that believe” in him. Many scholars take Mk 16:8 as the original ending and believe the ending (Mk 16:9-20) was written later. In Acts 2, which describes tongues-speaking occurring in Jerusalem at Pentecost this was the first manifestation in the Bible. In Acts 10:46, when the household of Cornelius in Caesarea spoke in tongues, and those present compared it to the tongues-speaking that occurred at Pentecost. In Acts 19:6, when a group of approximately a dozen men spoke in tongues in Ephesus as they received the filling of the Holy Spirit while the apostle Paul laid his hands upon them. In 1 Cor 12, 13, 14, where Paul discusses speaking in “various kinds of tongues” as part of his wider discussion of the gifts of the Spirit; his remarks shed some light on his own speaking in tongues as well as how the gift of speaking in tongues was to be used in the church. However Peter quoted what the prophet Joel said in Acts 2: 16-21; “16But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 17 ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams.18 And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy.19 I will show wonders in heaven above And signs in the earth beneath: Blood and fire and vapor of smoke.20 The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord.21And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the Lord Shall be saved.”
II-Efficiency of Speaking in Tongues
Does the speaking in tongues necessary for us to prove our salvation? Does it necessary for us to be baptized by the Holy Spirit? I truly believe that once you receive the Lord Jesus Christ the Holy Spirit emerge or baptized you and indwells in you (Matt. 3:11; Eph. 1:13,14). So it is necessary for us to look on the purposes of Speaking in Tongues.
A. What are its purposes?
First let me discuss the negative or the misnomer about speaking in tongues. It is not necessary for our salvation because our salvation is only anchored in the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12; Romans 10:9-10). It is not an evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit because the evidence is the transformed life (Eph.2:1-10; 2 Cor. 5:1:17; Col.3:5-10; 1 Cor. 12:13). It is not universal because it is a gift (1 Corinthians 12:10), it means that it is not present to all people because in verse 11 of 1 Corinthians 12 says “And these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.” It is not t is not ecstatic but Self-controlled.
So what are the purposes of speaking in tongues? First is to communicate the Gospel message. With unmistakable clarity Paul says, “Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not . . . ” (1 Corinthians 14:22). The word “sign” (Gr. semeion) in the New Testament is often associated with the conveying of a Divinely-given message to unbelievers. The gifts were never given for the self-satisfaction or self-glory of the recipients. The one upon whom the gift was bestowed was merely an instrument through whom God wanted to communicate His message. In the context of the Corinthian church, because of so love to the spectacular miracles and signs they misused and abused up to the point that those who have that gift became arrogant and boastful in the midst of the congregation. They started to equate and label themselves to others. The spiritual immaturity of the believers in Corinth called for instruction, so in the middle of Paul’s discourse on tongues he writes, “Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men” (1 Corinthians 14:20). The Greek word for “men” (teleios) means mature. In their misuse of speaking in tongues they were showing their immaturity, a behavior pattern which characterized the believers at Corinth. The Apostle reminded them that they remained “babes in Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:1). Secondly is to confirm the Gospel message. When the Apostles used the gift of tongues it was because they did not have what you and I have today, the completed Word of God, God’s full and final revelation to man. When they went about preaching the Gospel, their message was confirmed by the exercise of the sign gifts. Tongues-speaking vindicated both the message and the messenger. “Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds” (2 Corinthians 12:12). Thirdly is for the edification purpose. It doesn’t edify the body if there is lack of interpreter but it edifies the self. It is a personal edification (1 Cor. 14: 2-4), Paul said “For anyone who speaks in tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit.” But as I said a while ago “The gifts were never given for the self-satisfaction or self-glory of the recipients.” So if it will be done in public worship it must be interpreted by those who have gifts of interpretation.
B. What is its product?
As we see it becomes a jumping board for the sharing of the gospel in those times. It edifies the people who speak in tongues. But in public worship it brings confusion unless it is interpreted. Sometimes it creates division because some misuses it. Because of this the Apostle Paul discusses in 1 Corinthians 14 the gifts of superiority of prophecy (which sometimes pertains to the proclaiming or preaching) over tongues. Let me quote the analysis of Warren Wiersbe.
|1. Speaks to men for their good, v. 3
||1. Speaks to God for the speaker’s own good, v. 2
|2. Can be understood, vv. 2, 5
||2. Not understood unless there is an interpreter v.5
|3. Edifies the church, vv. 3-4
||3. Edifies the speaker, v. 4
|4. The greater gift, vv. 5, 19
||4. The lesser gift, v. 5 ;12:10
I learned that it is used in three different areas. First, a private prayer that is not interpreted; second, a language that is interpreted – this defines proper usage in the Christian congregation; and third, missionary context — that is, it appears in the context of evangelism where people (in the New Testament) are presenting the gospel. We must keep in mind that spiritual gifts have as their purpose the building up of the church of Jesus Christ (12:7) and not the personal enjoyment of the believer. Gifts are for employment, not enjoyment.
It produces personal enjoyment or edification and not community enjoyment. It is vague even from the point of view of the speaker that’s why interpreter is necessary and those who will speak must be in order not just babbling or stammering lips (1Cor. 14:27-28).
III-Extinguishment of Speaking in Tongues
The question is does it exist in the present days? Or does it cease? The Bible is not vivid in telling us how is should be treated. It must be based in our solid exegesis and study of the word and our conviction as guided by the Holy Spirit. There are some verses in the Scripture that explains that the different gifts will cease. Let’s look in the light of our Bible and in our history.
A. What does the Bible says?
The apostle Paul explicitly explains that the solution to the problem in the Corinthian church is in chapter 13 that talks about love. This is the essence that has been lost in that Christian congregation. Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. When I was a child, I used to speak as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known (1 Cor. 13:8-12 NASB). The idea of the apostle Paul in these verses is the different gifts will cease. It is a future indicative that means it will happen in the future. But the question is where in the point of history does the biblical tongues cease? Some said that it is when the scripture has been canonized. Brian Swertley said “It is an historical fact that all modes of special revelation did cease with the death of the apostles and the completion of the New Testament. Believers living in the present (21st century A.D.) have exactly the same number of New Testament books as Christians living in A.D. 67 had (or if one takes a late date for the book of Revelation—A.D. 96). Indeed, the perfect did come and it is still with us. Since we have a completed canon, and since the Bible is all we need for salvation, life and godliness, what purpose would modern tongues and prophecy serves?”(www.reformedonline.com). Other people and theologian exclaimed that the ceasing of tongues will happen at the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Because of what the apostle Paul said “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known.” They believe that it will happen in the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ- the knowing or the revealing to the full.
B. What does the History says?
But let’s examine the historical facts, events, view of church father regarding this gift. I make a table to explain my point clearly.
||Key Person/ Event
|A.D. 100 to 400
||Irenaeus- the disciple of Polycarp which was the disciple of John the beloved.
||2nd-century reference too many in the church speaking all kinds of languages ‘through the Spirit. Eusebius quoted the work of Irenaeus, “as we hear many of the brethren in the church who have prophetic gifts, and who speak in all tongues through the Spirit. Others also brings to light the secret things of men for their benefit, and expound the mysteries of God.”
(Shepherd Staff, section C4, pp.22-23)
||Justin Martyr- was a Christian apologist who studied all the great philosophies of his day.
||What we do have are general remarks that Christ had given the gifts of the Spirit to the church, and that the gifts in general remained in the church.
For the prophetical gifts remain with us, even to this present time. (www.wikipedia.com)
||In an anti-heretical apologetic alludes to instances of the ‘interpretation of tongues’ as one among several examples of ‘spiritual gifts’ common enough in his day to be easily encountered and provide evidence that God was at work in the church.
||Regarded the whole phenomenon of ‘speaking in tongues’ as not only something that was not practiced in his own day, but was even obscure. He said “This whole phenomenon [of speaking in tongues] is very obscure, but the obscurity is produced by our ignorance of the facts referred to and by their cessation, being such then as used to occur but now no longer take place. And why do they not happen now? Why look now, the cause too of the obscurity hath produced us again another question: namely, why did they then happen, and now do so no more?”
||Augustine of Hippo- bishop of Hippo
||Regarded speaking in tongues (that is, xenoglossia) as a gift for the apostolic church alone, and argued that this was evident from the fact that his contemporaries did not see people receiving that gift in their own day.
|A.D. 400 to 1900
||1265– Thomas Aquinas- a theologian and philosopher
||Wrote about the gift of tongues in the New Testament, which he understood to be an ability to speak every language, given for the purposes of missionary work. He explained that Christ did not have this gift because his mission was to the Jews, “nor does each one of the faithful now speak save in one tongue”; for “no one speaks in the tongues of all nations, because the Church herself already speaks the languages of all nations”.
||1600s– Early Quakers, such as Edward Burrough,
||Make mention of tongues speaking in their meetings: “We spoke with new tongues, as the Lord gave us utterance, and His Spirit led us”.
|A.D. 1901 to 1906
||Azusa Street Revival
||Charles Fox Parham, a holiness preacher and founder of Bethel Bible College in 1900, is given credit for being the one who influenced modern Pentecostalism.
||Parham now found himself as the leader of the movement and traveled to church meetings around the country to preach [in the terminology of that era] about holiness, divine healing, healing by faith, the laying on of hands and prayer, sanctification by faith, and the signs of baptism of the Holy Ghost and Fire, the most prominent being speaking in tongues.
||William J. Seymour became indoctrinated in the school of Parham in Houston. It is notable that Seymour was black, and Parham was white. It is further notable that Seymour did not speak in tongues while in Houston.
||When Seymour was invited to speak in Los Angeles about the baptism of the Holy Spirit in February 1906, he accepted. His first speaking engagement was met with dispute, primarily because he preached about “tongues” being a primary indication of the baptism of the Spirit, yet he did not himself speak in tongues. It was not until April that his preaching and teaching about glossolalia paid dividends, first to a man named Edward Lee, and later to Seymour. Similar to the experience of Parham in 1901, Seymour’s students received the ability to speak in tongues a few days before he did.
We see that there is the great tense between the existence and cessation of the said gift.
Some members of these churches speak in a calm rhythmic patter that has been described as pleasant to the ear, or even beautiful. Others show more visible emotion, and sometimes accentuate their speaking with clapping, shaking, shouting, and dancing. In one unusual form called “holy laughter”, people begin laughing uncontrollably, often falling out of their chairs and rolling around on the floor. When these people are later asked about their behavior, they say that they had no control over what they did, but were driven by the power of the Holy Spirit. Some of them have described themselves as “drunk with the Holy Spirit.” Some Christians believe that the modern resurgence in tongue speaking is a sign that the End Times are near, and that Jesus will return very soon. Outside observers have proposed several explanations for why people talk in tongues. One common explanation is that many people only pretend to do it and have to fake their performances. Another possibility is that people enter a hypnotic or trance-like state. And observers of some groups have even described what they saw as mass hysteria. But most tongue-speakers don’t care what outsiders think. They believe that they have been baptized with the Holy Spirit in the same way as the earliest followers of Jesus were. Some of them also believe that they are the only true Christians, and the only people who will be saved. This is the same problem that existed in Corinthian church because they don’t care about their brothers in Christ.
Can we attest the present gift of tongues? Does it come from the Holy Spirit? Does it equal to the past generation speaking in tongues?
The sickness of emotionalism and compromising exist in the church today. Many of those who experience the speaking in tongues in the church today are base on their emotions and not in orderly manner and gift of the Holy Spirit. God is the God of order and he gives gifts to the church. I don’t believe in the babbling but I do believe that tongues can exist as the Lord wants it to be. I cannot put my God in the box. It can be used as a jumping to share the message of God but I don’t that it should be practice and require in the church.
Grudem, W., Systematic Theology, IVP, Norttingham NG73HR, England, 1994
Mahoney, R., The Shepherd Staff, Thomas Press Ltd., India, 2001
Barnes, Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament, Electronic Edition STEP Files Copyright © 1999, Findex.Com.
The Bible Knowledge Commentary: New Testament, Electronic Edition STEP Files Copyright © 1997, Parsons Technology, Inc., PO Box 100, Hiawatha, Iowa.
Hodge, Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians, Electronic Edition STEP Files Copyright © 2003, QuickVerse, a division of Findex.Com, Inc.
The Believer’s Study Bible, Electronic Edition STEP Files Copyright © 1998, Parsons Technology, Inc., all rights reserved.
Life Application Bible Commentary: 1 & 2 Corinthians, Electronic Edition STEP Files Copyright © 2002, Parsons Church Group, a division of FindEx.com, Inc. All rights reserved.
WARREN W. WIERSBE, QUICKVERSE, A DIVISION OF FINDEX.COM, INC. OMAHA, NEBRASKA.