Speaking in Tongues
Text: Acts 2:1-11
I. I received several questions in recent days regarding speaking in tongues
A. People wanting to know what it was, what is the heavenly language, what is the unknown tongue
B. But probably more than anything else, they want to know if you must have the gift of tongues as evidence of having the Holy Spirit
1. There is a segment of denominations whose roots are in John Wesley’s teachings on holiness.
a. The basic idea is that God has two works of grace.
b. The first is salvation that is brought about by the regeneration of the Holy Spirit.
c. The second is complete sanctification, which brought about by the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
d. Salvation is seen as the cleansing from past sins. Here the Spirit is seen as abiding with a person.
e. Sanctification is seen as the removal of the desire to sin. When this happens, the Spirit is seen as dwelling in the person.
2. Among the holiness groups are segments known as the Pentecostals.
a. They believe that all Christians can receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, just as the apostles did on the day of Pentecost.
b. The ability to speak in tongues is seen as evidence that a person was baptized in the Holy Spirit.
c. Paul Baggett, “This experience, also called being ‘filled with the Spirit,’ is described in the New Testament, particularly in the Book of Acts. The clear pattern is that everyone who is baptized in the Holy Spirit will speak in unknown tongues (languages) as the initial physical evidence of this experience.” [Why Speak in Tongues?, p. 1]
3. Hence, the interest in the gift of tongue speaking.
II. What does the Bible mean by “tongues”
A. Glossa - The word in Greek refers both to the physical organ within the mouth as well as the speech produced by the tongue.
1. Well seen in James 3:5-10
a. Here James both refers to the physical organ (verse 5)
b. And to what the tongue produces (speech) (verses 8-10)
2. By extension, it refers the language a person speaks, as seen in Acts 2:4-8
a. The apostles spoke in tongues
b. The audience heard them speaking in their own native dialect (or language).
B. The ability to speak in languages new to the speaker was promised - Mark 16:17
C. Pentecostals will agree that Acts 2 refers to speaking in other languages (which they call “ethnic” tongues), but they will state that I Corinthians 14 refers to “ecstatic” tongues - sounds of no particular language which is only understood by God.
1. The source of this belief is the King James Version’s use of the phrase “unknown tongue.”
2. If you have a King James Version handy and look in I Corinthians 14, you will see that every use of “unknown” is italicized – indicating that the word “unknown” does not appear in the original text but was inserted by the translators for clarification.
3. So are the tongues referred to in I Corinthians 14 sounds of no language (“ecstatic”) or a real language, just unknown to either the speaker or the listener?
a. I Corinthians 14:5, 13, 27-28 - The tongues under discussion could be interpreted (translated or explained).
b. I Corinthians 14:11 - When the meaning of the language (sound, literally “voice”) is not known by the speaker and the listener, then each sees the other as a foreigner.
c. I Corinthians 14:10 - All languages have meaning (which basically rules out ecstatic utterances)
d. Paul quotes Isaiah 28:11 in I Corinthians 14:21
(1) Isaiah 28:11 is a reference to foreign nations - Jeremiah 5:15
(2) See also Isaiah 33:19
e. I Corinthians 14:22-23 - tongues were a sign given to unbelievers, but only if they understand the language
D. A fall back is to declare that the tongue being used is a heavenly language, known only to God
1. Verses used:
a. I Corinthians 13:1 - Speaking with the tongues of angels
b. I Corinthians 14:2 - Speaks to God, but men don’t understand
2. The problem is that they miss the point
a. Speaking in any tongue (men or angels) is useless if the speaker does not have love.
b. Speaking in any tongue is useless to the church if the audience is unable to understand.
3. Understanding I Corinthians 14
a. Paul argues in I Corinthians 14 that the gift of prophecy is more useful to the church than the gift of tongues - I Corinthians 14:1-5
b. Tongue speaking is useless without understanding - I Corinthians 14:6-12
c. Paul points out the uselessness of praying in a language that even the one praying doesn’t understand - I Corinthians 14:13-15
(1) Note especially verse 15
(2) If you are going to pray, pray so that both your spirit and your mind benefits
(3) In other words, Paul is stating that if you are going to pray, pray in a known tongue.
d. In addition, prayer in worship needs to benefit those present. Paul is telling the Corinthians to pray such that those listening will understand and gain knowledge from hearing the prayer - I Corinthians 14:16-19
III. Was speaking in tongues evidence of having the Holy Spirit in you?
A. Every Christian did not have all the gifts - I Corinthians 12:1, 4-11, 28-30
B. In fact, Paul pointed out that it was ridiculous to expect a group to all exhibit exactly the same gifts - I Corinthians 12:12-26
C. It is man’s failing to think that some gifts are better than others - Romans 12:3-8
1. A Christian during the first century might have the gift of healing and not have the gift of tongues or prophecy.
2. Nor were all Christians workers of miracles.
3. When brethren gathered, each had something different to offer to the assembly - I Corinthians 14:26
D. The usual objection is that the gift of the Spirit was promised to all Christians - Acts 2:38-39
1. The irony of this objection is that Pentecostals don’t practice this.
a. They believe you can become a Christian
b. Then the gift of the Spirit is possible if you have enough faith
2. Peter’s promise is that every Christian (as many as are called) would receive the gift (singular) of the Spirit. What gift is being referred to?
a. Paul listed gifts of ministering, teaching, exhortation, and giving in Romans 12.
(1) These are gifts from God, but they are not miraculous gifts.
(2) Besides, Paul’s point in Romans 12 is that everyone does not receive the same gifts
b. Nor could it be miraculous gifts
(1) Paul stated that not everyone receives them.
(2) Besides, Paul stated that at some point miraculous gifts would end - I Corinthians 13:8-10
(3) The gift referred to by Peter was promised to be permanent.
c. The overlooked gift of the Spirit - Ephesians 1:13-14
(1) It mentions the promised Spirit, just like Acts 2:38-39
(2) It is a promise to all who are saved.
(3) What is given (a gift)? A guarantee of our inheritance.
(4) All Christians have a gift from the Holy Spirit
(5) They are all sealed with the Spirit as a guarantee of future salvation in heaven.
3. Yet every Christian, having the Spirit’s seal, did not manifest itself with the gift of speaking in tongues.
IV. What passes for tongue speaking in Pentecostal is used for the wrong purpose.
A. It does not confirm the truth
1. The signs were to confirm the word being taught - Mark 16:17-20
2. Tongues were for the unbeliever - I Corinthians 14:22
3. The problem is that there are diverse beliefs among the Pentecostals – they do not teach the same thing.
a. Do we believe the “Jesus Only” tongue speakers or the “Trinity” tongue speakers?
b. There are tongue speakers among the Catholics, so do we believe the pope or reject him as the tongue speakers among the Baptists?
4. Then too, tongue speaking is done by both men and women in assemblies. Does God violate his own commands? - I Corinthians 14:33-34
B. It is not used to teach
1. The gifts were for the profit of everyone - I Corinthians 12:7
2. Tongues are useless without a message - I Corinthians 14:6
3. It is for the edification of the church - I Corinthians 14:12, 26
4. Modern-day tongue speakers use tongues for tongues sake alone. If it blesses anyone, the claim is a blessing on the speaker.
C. It is used for show
1. God called tongues the least gift - I Corinthians 12:28
2. The gift of prophecy was more to be desired - I Corinthians 14:1-5
3. Among Pentecostals, tongue speaking is ranked very highly.
a. Many believe that you must have the gift of tongues to know that you are saved
b. Others believe that you must speak in tongues to live a victorious life
V. Gift of tongues came to an end when the message of God was completely delivered.
A. What passes as tongue speaking today bears no resemblance to the real thing found in the New Testament.
B. It serves no purpose. It demonstrates no support from God. It is simply a showy bunch of babblers.
C. Oh, they sincerely believe, but their belief is not in the truth