SPEAKING IN TONGUES
I Corinthians 12:7-11
This passage lists nine miraculous gifts which were practiced in the early New Testament church. One of those gifts was speaking in tongues which we will study in this lesson. This particular gift is deserving of much study because there is so much confusion in the minds of many people because many modern preachers today claim to speak with tongues and claim that all Christians can have this miraculous experience. Several religious groups in Christianity claim the power of speaking with tongues and speak of it as a second work of grace. Those who make this claim often throw themselves on the floor and then arise and give a demonstration of speaking in tongues. No interpreter is present, and sometimes they claim that even the speaker does not know what he says and no one else knows. Sometimes while preaching, the speaker will utter five or six unintelligible words by which he conveys to the audience that he can speak in tongues. The falling prostrate on the floor is claimed to be a necessary part of the formula for obtaining the gift of speaking in tongues. Needless to say, these people are deceived or they are deceivers, and that includes all churches, preachers, teachers and members. who practice and proclaim this deception. There is no truth in their claims. Since the Holy Spirit is the One who imparted this gift, let us attend to what He says about the subject.
First of all, the gift of tongues, as spoken in the early church, were different languages or dialects. They were not confused jabberings or
words of indistinct and unintelligible meaning. The first example of speaking with tongues was on the Day of Pentecost, the birthday of the Church in the city of Jerusalem(Acts 2). We are told there were people in Jerusalem from every nation under heaven, and thus people of many different languages were present.. When the multitude heard the apostles speaking in other tongues, they ran together and were confused because everyone heard them speak in his own language(v.4). Acts 2:7 says, “Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear each in our own language in which we were born?” What was the speaking in tongues on that day? Each person heard the gospel preached in his own language in which he was born. Luke, the inspired writer, states that the tongues which the apostles spoke were languages of people who had come from every nation under heaven, and seventeen nations were represented. This first example established the indisputable truth that the speaking of tongues in the early church were always intelligent languages.
Secondly, we learn from its first use on the birthday of the church and inauguration day of the Kingdom of God on this earth that of all the miraculous gifts imparted by the Holy Spirit, God chose speaking with tongues as the most powerful evidence to establish the credibility of the Christian religion. What miracle did God choose to use to convince an unbelieving nation, who crucified His only begotten Son, that Jesus of Nazareth was indeed the Messiah of the Jews? What was it that changed the minds of 3,000 Jews to leave the Jewish religion and convert to the Christian religion? Some would say that it was the preaching of Peter on that famous day. Of course, that first great sermon of Peter had an important part, but what was it that convinced thousands of Jews that Peter was speaking the truth and spoke by the authority of Jehovah God Himself? They taught Jesus was the Messiah for over three years but few believed them, but on this day 3,000 Jews became Christians in one day. What happened so special on that day?
The miracle that did the job, that empowered the apostles as true spokesmen of Jehovah was the miracle of speaking in tongues. Twelve uneducated and lowly-minded men, several of them fishermen by trade, yet were able to speak in all of the languages of the then-known world. It was a miracle in which there could be no deception. It was a miracle that none could dispute. People who spoke 17 different languages were there and heard these men speak their languages. There was no way these fishermen could have learned that many languages. It was so convincing that thousands of Jews believed every word Peter said about Jesus Christ.
The convincing power of this particular miracle is expressed well in I Cor. 14:22, “ Tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers.” On the day of Pentecost God used tongues to convince unbelieving Jews and in Corinth and other churches God used tongues to convince unbelieving Gentiles. In view of these facts, it is not surprising that the most sought after miraculous gift in the early church was speaking in tongues. All preachers who claim Christians can receive this wonderful gift today slanders the Holy Spirit in doing so, for the Holy Spirit will give no one this miraculous ability today. They give people a false hope.
Thirdly, the speaking with tongues was never intended to be universal in the church. It was not a gift to each and every person who became a Christian? It had no part in the conversion process. How do we know that? In I Cor. 12:28-30, Paul wrote, “And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healing, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues.
Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?” What is the answer to all these questions? The implied answer is, “No.” Speaking with tongues was a specific gift to a limited number. “Do all speak with tongues?” said Paul. He had no need to answer this question. All knew that not all were apostles etc. Paul here denies the universality of the gift; it was a limited gift to a limited few even in the first century. It passed away when all other spiritual gifts ceased at the end of the first century. This gift was imparted ordinarily by the laying on the apostles' hands and necessarily ceased with the death of the apostles. There were but two exceptions to this rule. The gift of speaking in tongues was given to the apostles directly from heaven to overcome the unbelief of the Jews on the day of Pentecost, and the gift of speaking in tongues was given to Cornelius the gentile directly from heaven to convince Peter that gentiles had the same right to become Christians as the Jews, and to convince Peter that he should baptize Cornelius into Christ(Acts 2:1-4; Acts 10:44-48). The conversion of the first Jews and the conversion of the first gentiles were very special occasions. On all other occasions, the gift of tongue speaking was imparted only by the laying on the apostles' hands, and when the last apostle died the gift of tongue-speaking ceased forever.
Finally, there was a special restriction placed on all who had the gift of speaking in foreign languages. In I Cor. 14: 27,28 Paul wrote, “If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in the church, and let him speak to himself and God.” Here is another evidence that speaking with tongues was one of the spoken languages of the earth. It showed that Christians who had this gift were tempted to misuse it. It was never to be used to confuse the public worship and waste the time of worshipers by speaking in a language the members could not understand. In I Cor. 14:23 Paul wrote, “Therefore if the whole church comes together in one place, and all speak with tongues, and there comes in those who are uninformed or unbelievers, will they not say that you are out of your mind?”
It is sad to see modern-day preachers trying to duplicate tongue-speaking and miraculous healing. They touch people on the head and have them fall to the floor. Of course, people know when he touches them they are to fall to the floor. It is easy to deceive some religious- minded people. There is no way the audience or TV viewers can verify that true miracles have taken place. These preachers are very deceptive by making it look so
real. In doing these things they are really slandering the Holy Spirit by claiming the Holy Spirit is miraculously working when He ended that kind of work two thousand years ago. Many times it is written in God's word, “Be not deceived..” In the midst of the religious confusion of the day it is not easy to carry out that admonition. Paul expressed the most successful way to escape being deceived when he said to Timothy, “But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them”(2 Tim. 3:14.15). In his case it was his mother and grandmother who were devout Christians.