THE QUESTION OF "TONGUES"
December 1, 1987 Issue
Charismatics claim that it must be Gods will because they have an experience called "speaking in tongues."
Those who believe that the Bible teaches spiritual gifts (which includes "tongues") would "cease" (I Corinthians 13:8) when the Bible was completed, maintain that the "tongue speaking" experience, itself, contains no proof of its source. Just because someone claims to speak for God by the Holy Spirit, does not mean that they in fact do (I Timothy 4:1). We need an external, objective testimony or standard to verify the experience as being, in fact, from God.
A real problem with validation comes when we discover that the phenomenon called "tongues" BY THE CHARISMATICS, is not an experience unique or limited to Christians. In his book "The Modern Tongues Movement" by Robert Gromacki (pg. 9), Dr. Gromacki notes that present day Mohammedans, Greenland Eskimos, Tibetan monks, etc., experience "ecstatic speech."
Jimmy Jividen, in his book "Glossolalia, from God or Man?" (p. 76), puts these facts into focus when he records:
"Such subjective personal experiences, when found in non-Christian religions like Islam, present a practical problem to the glossolaist (tongue speaker) who claims to follow Jesus Christ. If a Christian finds religious validation in such subjective religious experiences, how can he reject the same kind of subjective religious experience in a Moslem who denies Jesus and rejects the Bible? Subjectivism is dangerous when it is used to validate religious truth. Bob Douglas writes; When people begin to use their own experiences as a basis for verifying truth--as is done by those presently caught up in tongue speaking movements--then religion is robbed of any objective standard. The problem becomes critical when we deal with world religions, If one accepts 'tongue speaking as proof of the Holy Spirits presence in his life, how can he deal with the Moslem who claims to speak in 'tongues or perform 'miracles? The Moslem also concludes that his abilities are God-given. He regards them as evidence of the truthfulness of the Islamic conclusions regarding Christ. This dilemma is beyond solution, until one returns the question of authority to its rightful arena - objective truth, which is the written word of God." (Note, John 17:17).
I. "TONGUES" TRUE NATURE
We have noted that the experience called "tongues" BY THE CHARISMATICS is NOT unique to Christianity. Lets ask if the experience of the CHARISMATICS is, in actuality, the phenomenon described as "tongues" BY THE BIBLE.
It would not have been miraculous if the speaker had been educated in the foreign language. The audience in Acts 2 was "amazed and marveled" BECAUSE "...are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born?" (vs.: 7, 8).
"TONGUES" IN ACTS 2
Luke wanted to make it clear that the disciples in Acts 2 were speaking in foreign languages and dialects, not in unknown sounds, so after listing the different countries and nationalities present in Acts 2:5-11, he records the listeners as saying, "we hear them IN OUR OWN TONGUES" (Acts 2:11). Please note that in the context of Acts 2, "in our own tongues" (vs. 11) and "in our own language" (vs. 8) are SYNONYMOUS! "Tongues" and "language" are the same thing. BIBLICAL TONGUES ARE LANGUAGES OF MEN!
"TONGUES" IN CORINTH
Paul tells the Corinthian brethren who could speak a foreign language ("tongue"), whether the language was from the Holy Spirit OR NOT, to "keep silent" if there was no one who could translate ("interpret") their message for the assembly (I Corinthians 14:27, 28).
Paul repeatedly stressed to the Corinthians the need for the audience to understand and learn from what was being done. (Note, I Corinthians 14:6, 12, 17, 19, 24, 26, 31). This is the reason for Paul's emphasis on having an interpreter. In Paul's summary of his discourse on "tongues," he demands "Let ALL things be done for edification...so that ALL may learn" (I Corinthians 14:26, 31).
The fact that Biblical "tongues" are languages of men, rather than the "ecstatic speech" of the CHARISMATICS, is emphasized in I Corinthians 14:6-13. Verse 9 says, "...unless you utter by the tongue SPEECH that is clear, how will it be known what is spoken?" An important word in verse 9 is "speech," in that it tells us THE RESULT of using the gift of "tongues." "Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon" (p. 380), defines "speech" as; "a word." Dr. Thayer goes on to comment in explanation; "to utter a distinct word, INTELLIGIBLE SPEECH." Someone speaking in Biblical "tongues" would produce WORDS or language, not UNintelligible sounds.
Paul continues inverse 10, "There are, perhaps, a great many KINDS of languages IN THE WORLD, and no kind is without meaning." There is no doubt that Paul is speaking about the gift of "tongues" in this passage. Context demands such a conclusion. It is easy to see that the gift of "tongues," as given by the Holy Spirit, was one or more of the languages known to exist "in the world." These were languages of this "world," mans realm of speech. These were Spirit given languages that had "meaning" to, and could be understood naturally by, someone "in the world." They also could be interpreted or translated naturally by someone "in the world." Biblical "tongues" are languages of men! This is the true nature of the spiritual "gift" called "tongues" as given by the Holy Spirit.
"TONGUES" OF ANGELS
Some who advocate the "ecstatic speech" idea of "tongues," affirm that what is given to men may be an "angelic" language. This idea comes from I Corinthians 13:1 where Paul says; "If I speak with the tongues of men AND OF ANGELS, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal." Paul (who could "speak in tongues more than all" at Corinth I Corinthians 14:18, N.l.V.) is explaining to them that even if he himself possessed the ability to speak ALL languages (even the language of angels), but did not possess the correct attitude (i.e. love), in Gods eyes he was doing nothing more than making noise. Paul was not saying that he DID possess the ability to speak the language of angels, he said - "IF." Paul was using a figure of speech called "Hyperbole" ("Figures of Speech used in the Bible," by E.W. Bullinger, D.D., page 427). Dr. Bullinger defines the particular "Hyperbole" found here in I Corinthians 13:1-3 as a "Hypotheses, (things) which are impossible in themselves, but are used to express the greatness of the subject spoken of." Paul was not saying that he (or anyone else, for that matter) DID speak the language of angels, but rather the emphasis was on maintaining a proper attitude, irrespective of ones spiritual abilities.
Some CHARISMATICS insist that their "tongues" are a "prayer language" and cite Romans 8:26 as supposed proof. However, when reading this verse one should note that whatever action the Holy Spirit is performing (i.e. interceding, "with groanings"), it is happening between the Holy Spirit and God The Father. The passage does not say that the Holy Spirit CAUSES US to groan "too deep for words," but it does say that the Holy Spirit "Himself" is interceding "FOR US," that is "in our behalf" (Amplified Version). A Spirit inspired "prayer language" for man, is not found in this passage.
II. "...TONGUES, THEY WILL CEASE..."
Three things show that the miraculous gifts of the New Testament, including "tongue speaking", no longer exist: (1) An inspired man (Paul) predicted that such gifts would cease. (2) The need of such gifts ceased. (3) The means of obtaining such gifts ceased.
I CORINTHIANS 13:
"8) 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. 9) For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; 10) but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away."
This was to happen when "the perfect comes" (I Corinthians 13:10). It is essential to have a correct understanding of what "the perfect" is, in order to interpret the passage accurately. "Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon" (page 618), defines "perfect" as: "Brought to its end, finished; wanting (i.e. lacking) nothing necessary to completeness; perfect." The best way to illustrate the meaning of this word is by comparing it to a "jig-saw" puzzle. When all the PIECES (that which is "partial") of the puzzle are put together, they make up the COMPLETE ("perfect") picture. When the picture puzzle lacks "nothing necessary to completeness," it is finished. When all of the "partials" (remember Paul said that he knew "in part" vs. 9) were to COME TOGETHER, they would compose the COMPLETE (or "perfect" -James 1:25) revealed will of God. Then the PARTIALS (spiritual gifts) were to be "done away."
The early church was dependent upon oral revelation by Apostles and prophets for its knowledge of the will of God (2 Thessalonians 2:15). God placed the message in inspired men, enabling them to speak as the Holy Spirit "gave them utterance" (Acts 2:4). Thus, the word of God was revealed "in part" or gradually, UNTIL it was "once for all delivered unto the saints" (Jude vs. 3), and written by inspiration as a full revelation of the Divine will of God (2 Timothy 3:16, 17) in the New Testament.
Therefore, "tongues" along with all spiritual gifts were to "cease," and were in fact "done away," upon completion of the revelation of Gods word.
CHARISMATICS: please note that the "perfect" of I Corinthians 13:10 cannot be speaking of the return of Christ, or Christ Himself.
First of all, within the context there is a connection between the "partial" spiritual gifts and the "perfect." The "partial" was to make up the "perfect" (or "complete"). Jesus had to be "perfect" (Hebrews 5:9) in order to become "to all those who obey Him the source (author) of eternal salvation." The events in Acts 2 (which included the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and its "tongues") could ONLY take place if Jesus possessed "perfection," making Him an acceptable sin sacrifice (Hebrews 2:10, 9:14, I John 2:2). Jesus was "perfect" before ANYONE ever received the gift of "tongues." But the prophecy of I Corinthians 13:10, concerned something "partial" at that time, that was to be "perfect" in the future ("but when the perfect COMES"). Therefore, this cannot refer to the coming of Christ.
Secondly, the word "perfect," if referring to Christ, grammatically would need to be in the "masculine" gender. BUT the Greek word "teleion," which is translated "perfect" in I Corinthians 13:10, is in the nominative case, singular in number, and is neuter in gender (Wig rams "Analytical Greek Lexicon," p. 400). "Teleion's" literal translation is, "perfect THING." If reference was being made to Christ, the passage would have read, "when HE WHO is perfect" (masculine), but instead it correctly reads, "when THAT WHICH is perfect" (neuter). It is not in the "masculine" gender because it is not making reference to the Coming of Christ.
III. THE "MEANS" OF OBTAINING THE GIFTS CEASED
We have discussed two of the three things that show that spiritual gifts have ceased; (1) Pauls prediction that they would cease in I Corinthians 13:10, and (2) the fact that the need for such gifts ceased upon completion of the New Testament.
THE "BAPTISM" OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
The event called the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5) is described for us in Acts 2:2-4. The external signs of Holy Spirit baptism were; (1) VISIBLE tongues like as fire, (2) AUDIBLE sound as of the rushing of a mighty wind, and (3) SPEAKING with other "tongues" (languages) as the Spirit enabled them. Many Charismatics cite this passage to substantiate their belief that God is the source of their "tongue speaking" experience. They believe that when they experience "ecstatic speech," they have received a "Biblical experience" called the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
CHARISMATICS: please consider that if your experience does not include ALL three external evidences of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, it CANNOT BE a "Biblical" baptism of The Spirit. Also please consider that the Scriptures state, "All (Christians) do not speak with tongues" (I Corinthians 12:30).
"LAYING ON OF THE APOSTLES HANDS"
One of the distinctive abilities (credentials) of an Apostle of Jesus Christ (Acts 1:2) was the ability to lay his hands upon someone and impart a spiritual gift to that person. ONLY Apostles appointed and commissioned by Jesus Christ, Himself, were able to do this. NONE of the people that the Apostles laid their hands on were able to pass on or confer spiritual gifts to others. To illustrate, lets notice the case of Philip, the evangelist. Philip received the laying on of the Apostles hands (Acts 6:5, 6) and was able to work signs (Acts 8:6, 13). He could not transfer this power of working signs to other people. It is necessary for the Apostles to come down from Jerusalem to do this (Acts 8:14-17). This was understood by those who saw the signs. When Simon (commonly called "the Sorcerer") perceived "...that the Spirit was bestowed THROUGH the laying on of THE APOSTLES HANDS, he offered them money, saying, 'Give this authority to me as well, so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit." (Acts 8:18, 19). Simon was, of course, rebuked for trying to purchase a God given ability, but his observation of HOW gifts of the Holy Spirit were given, was correct. Acts 19:6 corroborates this when it records "..when (Apostle) Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with TONGUES and prophesying."
THE "MEANS" HAVE CEASED
Since the baptism of the Holy Spirit is not in existence today (Ephesians 4:5, 5:26), and since there are no Apostles of Jesus today to bestow spiritual gifts, the conclusion is evident. Since these were the means by which the gift of "tongues" were received, then there can be no genuine gift of "tongue speaking" today as it was known in the New Testament times. The gift eventually CEASED because the means CEASED.
NOTES ON APOSTOLIC CREDENTIALS
Please note, credentials of the Apostleship of Christ (Acts 1:2) are to be understood as distinct from the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Cornelius and his household were not given Apostolic credentials from Christ, even though they were baptized with the Holy Spirit (Acts 11:15). And Paul was given Apostolic credentials "not ...through the agency of man (i.e. Ananias, Acts 9:12), but through Jesus Christ" (Galatians 1:1) but was not baptized with the Holy Spirit. The baptism of The Spirit was to fulfill Joel's prophecy (Acts 2:16). The Apostles co-incidentally received their Apostolic credentials promised by Jesus, at the same time the baptism of the Holy Spirit occurred. The only exception to this would be Paul, who was a special Apostle chosen by Christ, Himself (Acts 9:15, Ephesians 1:1, 3:1-8, I Corinthians 1:1, 15:7-11, Galatians 1:1). Paul did receive Apostolic credentials (which included the unique ability to impart spiritual gifts by laying on of hands, I Timothy 4:142 Timothy 1:1, 6, Acts 19:6), but he did not receive them through Ananias's hands (Galatians 1:1) nor does the New Testament record that Paul participated in a baptism of the Spirit.
REVIEW AND CONCLUSION
To review what we have learned; Many world religions have "ecstatic speech" similar, if not identical, to the Charismatic experience. Because of this, the Charismatics have problems authenticating their experience as being from God.
We, then, examined the Scriptures to see if the Charismatic experience could be validated by the New Testament teaching on "tongues." We discovered glaring discrepancies between the Charismatics "ecstatic speech," and Biblical "tongues." We found "tongues," in the New Testament, to be; a miraculous ability given to some (I Corinthians 12:30), by the Holy Spirit, to speak in a known language of man, one however not known (i.e. foreign) to the speaker. We learned that "speech," i.e. "language," is the result of speaking in a "tongue" (I Corinthians 14:9). We also found that the "Biblical" gift of "tongues" was not an "angelic" language or a "prayer" language, but one of the languages of "the world" (I Corinthians 14:10).
The conclusion is obvious. The experience called "tongue speaking" by the Charismatics of today, IS NOT the spiritual gift called "tongues" in the New Testament.
In all probability, today's phenomenon called "tongue speaking" has as its source the natural realm of physical experience (not unlike a "trance" or "hypnotism") and is a deceiving, lying wonder "in accord with the activity of Satan" (2 Thessalonians 2:9). It, most assuredly, is not of God.
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