"...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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.