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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15

The New Testament Gift of Tongues

Dr. Richard C. Weeks

February, 1974

1. The phenomenon of speaking in tongues at Pentecost is the same phenomenon spoken of in Acts 10:45-46, Acts 19:6-7, I Corinthians chapters 12-14.

2. The 'tongues' of Acts 2 (Greek 'gloossai') were languages. So also were the tongues of 1 Cor. 12-14 spoken languages of the known world.

3. The 'tongues' were for a sign (miracle). 1 Cor. 14:22 (cf. Acts 2:32, 33, 36). They could be recognized as a sign (miracle) only if:

a. They were a miracle of language (intelligible, orderly speech communication and expression).

b. To be recognized as a sign (miracle) they must be understood by a native of the language, so also for the miracle, a native of the language would have to be a witness to it.

4. The sign was God's miraculous means of accrediting both the New Testament church which Christ established and the Gospel which His disciples were proclaiming in contra-distinction if not opposition to Judaism and the Mosaic Law. Isaiah 28:11, 12, 16 (cf.1 Cor. 14:21, 22). In all three cases of tongues mentioned in Acts, Jews were present who needed to see this miracle sign attesting to the truth. This was true also in Corinth where we find according to Acts 18 that there Jews who violently opposed the Gospel and only a miracle sign would convince some of them.

5. Once the canon of Scripture was collected, it alone became the attestation of the Christian faith by the Holy Spirit who is its author. 1 Cor. 13:8-11, Romans 15:18, 19, Hebrews 2:1-4. Jesus expressed His indignation at those who were demanding a sign. Matthew 12:38, 39. Paul likewise speaks of the Jews having affinity for signs. (1 Cor. 1:22, 23)

6. The word 'unknown' modifying tongues and appearing in italics a number of times in the King James translation of 1 Cor. 14 is not in the Greek text. The translators added the word for interpretation purposes. The translators in adding the word were not 'glossolalia or tongues' advocates, and by it meant not a mysterious 'other-world' language but the speaking of a national language which was unknown and unlearned by the speaker who miraculously uttered it.

There is no indication that the King James translators had in mind either a 'heaven language' or a babel but rather 'unknown' in the sense that the one who possessed this miracle gift when exercised spoke in a tongue or language which was not his native language. He had never learned the language which he spoke. It was unknown to him. Thus he would need an interpreter for those present whose language it was would recognize the speaking as a miracle knowing that the speaker had never known or learned their language previously.

7. There is no such thing as a heavenly tongue or language spoken of in the Scriptures. 1 Cor. 13:1, 'tongues (or languages)…of angels' is speaking hypothetically. The Apostle Paul is not saying that men by a miraculous gift speak the language of angels. He simply is saying hypothetically that without love he is nothing regardless of the fact that he (as a representative Christian) might speak with the gift of languages of earth or even if he spoke the language of angels. Nowhere does he assert that he speaks some mysterious radically different language of angels nor does he exhort others to be able to do so also.

8. A babel of noises cannot be interpreted because it is not a language and therefore is not subject to interpretation as required in 1 Cor. 14:27, 28.

9. We have no indication that even in Corinth this gift was frequent only that some members of the church desired to possess it. If the church at Corinth is illustrative of a tongues speaking church, it was not a spirit filled church but instead noted for its deplorable carnality. 1 Cor. 3:1-3, 5:1-2.

10. No women were to speak in tongues. 1 Cor. 14: 34-35. It might be answered that the prohibition applies only in churches. This regulation alone obeyed would squelch the greater share of the disorder of modern day 'Pentecostal' churches and result in little so-called private-edification of the gift of languages is not taught in this passage. It is true that one who used that gift in the church service decently and in order found as a by-product that he edified himself (vs. 4) but yet the purpose was not self-edification but for a miracle sign to attest to the truth of the Christian revelation (vs. 22). The speaking 'to himself, and to God' has as its context 'in the church'. (vs. 28) Verse 28 is not to be understood as endorsing private tongues speaking for verse 22 plainly speaks of the one purpose of that gift-- a sign to unbelievers.

11. The word ' glossolalia' is the technical term referring to the so-called tongues-speaking of modern times. This phenomenon of glossolalia often occurs in persons totally void of spiritual understanding. Many non-Christian groups have fostered and utilized this. Joseph Smith and the early Mormons made a great deal of this as the proof that Mormonism was of God.

Zodhiates quotes from Plato (a good 400 years before Christ) to the effect that there were certain religionists of Plato's day who practiced glossolalia. There is a Turkish Moslem sect today which makes this a major attraction in their religious practices. A present day Pentecostal apologist Harry Lunn acknowledges in the Pentecostal magazine Logos (May-June 1972, p. 32), "Consequently, some who do not even know the Lord are seeking and finding some kind of tongues experience. Can this be? In The Challenging Counterfeit, Ralph Gasson makes it clear that this can happen and does happen." The same magazine lauds Roman Catholics who in greatly increasing numbers are the practicing glossolalia.

12. Glossolalia is not something mysterious let alone miraculous. It is a non-language vocalization brought on as a psycho-physical reaction when the motor processes of the body are disconnected with the rational thought, and continues as long as this divorce continues. It is not mental abnormality but simply the disengaging of control of the vocal body function by the mind. Thus very normal persons can and do experience glossolalia, but this had absolutely no connection with being filled with the Holy Spirit or identifying a Christian who is Spirit-filled and has nothing in common with the true apostolic age miracle gift of languages (tongues).

13. While, according to the Pentecostalists, glossolalia is a supernatural miraculous endowment, their writings are now abounding in giving exact directions for inducing the experience including how to position the body in sitting, how to hold the head and mouth and then to begin a vocalization; even suggesting the continuous repetitious utterance of certain given syllables. This exposes the entire process as a fraud from the viewpoint of any supernatural miraculous endowment.

14. Some individuals adapt themselves rather easily in producing this psycho-physical reaction while others have great difficulty and fortunately are unable to do so. Some have suggested that glossolalia is a take-over of evil spirits. I do not so believe. It is simply a process as stated in number 12 above. However, the great danger could easily be that when the motor processes of the body are disconnected with the rational thought, the human spirit is in a very vulnerable circumstance so that evil spirits could much more easily come in and take over and control the human spirit.

This may be the grounds for some reported instances where people where people yielded to glossolalia have been reported to speak actual languages unknown to themselves but known to someone listening who has affirmed that they spoke vile and blasphemous things against God. Regardless, we are so wonderfully, marvelously and delicately constructed with our mental and rational powers given from God that we ought never to experiment or 'play' with something so irreplaceably precious.

15. Unquestionably the miraculous gift of tongues which was but one-- though the most spectacular one--of the attesting temporary spiritual gifts (1 Cor. Chapter 12) ceased with the end of the apostolic age and the completion of the writing of the New Testament. 1 Cor. 13:10 deals with the perfection or completion of the Scriptures not of Christians and the 'knowledge' of v. 8 refers to the special temporary gift of 1 Cor. 12:8. The testimony of church history is that by the middle of the second century those accreditation gifts were gone from the churches.

16. Most tongues advocates give as a purpose for tongues that prophecy is a result of this. If the 'tongues' speaker is uttering his 'message' under the unction of the Holy Spirit then whatever is said is fully inspired of God and equal with the New Testament. But Scripture is plain that it is wrong to add to God's Word or even to reinforce it with a new message. It is falsehood and blasphemy with dire consequences promised for anyone who pretends to add to Scripture. Rev. 22:18-19.

17. That the gift of tongues even in the apostolic times was not for everyone is made plain by Hebrews 2:4 'according to His own will.' All believers are urged and expected to be filled with the Holy Spirit, Eph. 5:18, but are not urged to speak in tongues but the Apostle Paul in a comparison figure (1 Cor. 14:19) minimizes to the place of almost negation any value of a Christian desiring to speak in some language which most of the group will not understand.

18. There is not a single command in the Bible to speak in tongues (languages) so it is evident that even in apostolic times it was never intended that everybody should speak in tongues. Tongues speaking (languages) is never given a place of importance in the Bible. Nothing is said in the Bible that tongues (languages) are a sign of a Christian being baptized in the Spirit or filled with the Spirit.

19. We disagree with some who teach that the 'tongues' (language) gift of the Scriptures was simply ability to learn languages with facility.

a. It does not explain the Pentecost outpouring.

b. Tongues were a sign (miracle) 1 Cor. 14:22, (Acts 10, Acts 19) Learning languages not a miracle.

c. Those endowed with the gift of tongues (languages) did not understand their own speaking, hence an interpreter was necessary. If it had been simply an ability to learn and use a language not interpreter would be necessary.

ILLUSTRATION- If I as an English speaking preacher went to Palestine and visited an Arab Baptist Church service (which I did) I would not get up and speak or testify in English unless there was an interpreter present. If I had the language facility so as to speak Arabic there would be no need for an interpreter as demanded in 1 Cor. 14:28.

20. We disagree with some who believe that Paul found that the Corinthians were practicing glossolalia thinking that they actually had a real miracle gift of languages, but that instead of correcting them and outlawing the glossolalia he tacitly permitted it as not really harmful just so they were careful to maintain decent order in the church.

According to this view, when admonishing them to good church order he tactfully suggests that any tongues speaking (glossolalia) was a little value hoping that they would take the hint and gradually get of their hang-up with glossolalia. We disagree with the above view because:

a. When something was false or fake Paul told it straight without any diplomacy. He would not have allowed (1 Cor. 14:39) something false or fake to have continued.

b. It would be very misleading for later readers of the Bible to discern that Paul was talking about two different kinds of tongues-speaking as this viewpoint requires.

c. We do not say that there could not have been some ecstatic perversion such as glossolalia in the Corinthian church seeking to duplicate the genuine miracle. This may have been though we doubt it. However, we feel certain that had there been and Paul was aware of it, he would have denounced it in no uncertain terms.