Understanding Speaking In Tongues (Part 2)

The Second Use Of Tongues In The Bible—Gentiles (Acts 10:44-48)

  • 10:44-48 Peter was preaching the word (Acts 10:34-43) and the Gentiles heard, believed (Acts 10:43) and received the Holy Spirit. They even started to speak with tongues—because of Acts 2:1-11 this would mean to have the supernatural ability given by the Holy Spirit to speak an authentic foreign language that you have never studied—and what was the content of this speaking in tongues: magnify, praising and extolling God. (It also seems apparent that the believing Jews could understand what the tongues speakers were saying.)
  • Conclusion: So this is a gift for Jews and Gentiles with the common factor being that they are believers. This also seems to fulfill in part what Mark 16:16-20 had meant.

More Gentiles Speak In Tongues (Acts 19:1-7)

  • 19:1-7 Paul laid hands on about 12 Ephesian male disciples and they received the Holy Spirit and they began prophesying and speaking in tongues—again because of Acts 2:1-11 this would mean to have the supernatural ability given by the Holy Spirit to speak an authentic foreign language that you have never studied.
  • Conclusion: More fulfillment of the purpose signs was given is taking place (1 Corinthians 14:21-22).

Tongues Is A Spiritual Gift (1 Corinthians 12:1-11)

  • 12:7 There are a diversity of spiritual gifts but there is unity in all of them (1 Corinthians 12:4-6) and everyone who is given the manifestation of the Holy Spirit is for the “profit withal” or the common good.
  • 12:10 Some believers were given the spiritual gift of “divers kinds” or various kinds of “tongues” or foreign languages. Thus, some believers were given the special ability to speak an authentic foreign language that was previously unknown to them. Some believers were given the spiritual gift of “interpretation” or translation of “tongues” or foreign languages. Thus, people were given the ability to translate an authentic foreign language that was previously unknown to them. 
  • 12:11 All the gifts are the work of the one and the same Holy Spirit, and he distributes them to each person as he will (1 Corinthians 12:18).
  • Conclusion: The supernatural ability to speak foreign languages and to translate foreign languages was part of the spiritual gifts mentioned. God through the Holy Spirit gives to people according to His will and not everyone has the same gifts but we will have different gifts. The purpose of the gifts is to profit everyone not self. Thus, not everyone will be able to speak in tongues or translate tongues.

Tongues Aren’t Given To All Believers (1 Corinthians 12:27-31)

  • 12:28-30 Again it is stated that God gave the church “diversities of tongues” and then the questions are asked, “Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?” It is a rhetorical question—meaning the answer is an obvious “no”—not every person will have the same gifts in the church body (1 Corinthians 12:12-26). He ends by telling us to covet earnestly  or desire the best gifts—as this is a good thing to do—but he will show us a more excellent way—love. Spiritual gifts are good, but love is better. Some believers speak in tongues and some will translate but every believer should love.
  • Conclusion: The spiritual gifts are not a sign of spiritual maturity but “love” is. Every believer will have different gifts, not the same ones. We are to covet the best gifts—tongues is not in that category (1 Corinthians 14:1, 3-6, 24, 29, 31, 39).

Tongues Are Temporary (1 Corinthians 13:1-3, 8-10)

  • 13:1 The clear object of this chapter is to show “love” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a) is the more excellent way. It is more excellent than any spiritual gifts that we could have. He strongly states that we could be doing many great things for God, but if we didn’t have love, then it would be useless (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). He uses many hypothetical situations (“though I give my body to be burned”; 1 Corinthians 1:3) to emphasize the great importance of love in every situation. There are two examples that we need to address in our study. First, “Though I speak with the tongues of men…”—Paul starts off by saying that if he spoke in “tongues of men”—which is the supernatural ability given by the Holy Spirit to speak authentic foreign languages and “have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal”. Tongues without love is just noise. He adds “of men” which clearly indicates he is talking about genuine human languages. Second, he adds “of angels” or the “tongues of angels”—which means to speak the same as angels do. But what do angels speak? Every time an angel speaks in the Bible, those whom the angel is speaking to understands what is being said without translation. Thus, from the evidence we have in the Bible we can guess they probably have the ability to speak human languages without studying them. So it seems then that Paul is saying that even if he has this ability but didn’t have love it would be useless. Angels serve as messengers in the Bible who always clearly give the message to the intended receiver of the message (so Paul is probably saying, “If I could be like that!”). Thus the notion that there is an “angelic language” or the spiritual gift of speaking in tongues is an “angelic language” has no Scriptural support. (Angels Speaking: Genesis 16:9-11; 21:17; 22:11; Matthew 1:20; 2:13; Luke 1:19 and many more verses.)
  • 13:8 Again, love is the emphasis of this verse because love “never faileth”. Then he goes on to show “tongues” is inferior to love because “they shall cease”. The word “cease” simply means to have an end. When tongues have fulfilled their role they will no longer be a gift that the Holy Spirit gives to believers. So what was the role of tongues? (1) Tongues were a sign to confirm the message and messengers of the gospel before we had the completion of the New Testament to guide us (Mark 16:16-20; Hebrews 2:3-4); (2) Tongues were a sign of judgment to Israel and unbelievers (1 Corinthians 14:21-22; Isaiah 28:11-12). Thus, in the “early church” (in Acts etc.) these two signs were fulfilled, which makes sense why this gift seems to have ended. Outside of Acts and 1 Corinthians (which were of the same time period) no other believers are recorded in Scripture to be using this gift nor is it mentioned again in Scripture. Where did it go? It seems that it fulfilled its role and then ceased. Note: the two other gifts in the verse “prophecies” and “knowledge” will also come to and end one day, but the words used are “fail or vanish away”—which technically have the same meaning “to become inactive”. But When? “When that which is perfect is come”. These two are specifically mentioned in verse 9  (but tongues is not) which leads into verse 10. This state of perfection is most likely referring to our eternal state with God when things will be completed and not “in part”.
  • Conclusion: Tongues is an inferior gift. It is only useful when exercised with love. There are no known angelic languages in the Bible. Tongues will cease and it seems apparent that they have already ceased. Therefore, it seems tongues are no longer being given to believers by the Holy Spirit.

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