Why I Don't Speak In Tongues - Part II
In part 1 of "Why I Don't Speak In Tongues" I discussed the purposes of tongues given in the New Testament. Speaking in tongues (or being able to speak a language in which one has not been trained) was given to the apostles and certain others in the New Testament to do two things: (1) to establish the authority of the person working the sign, and (2) to confirm the Word of the Lord. Signs were credentials from God showing that the person was speaking with His authority, and wonders were the effects on those hearing or being witnesses of the signs. (For a full explanation, see "Why I Don't Speak In Tongues, Part I.")
I have several friends who practice the "speaking in tongues" as it is taught today by the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement. As a result of discussing this with many of them, being "taught" by them in the doctrine of "speaking in tongues," and in attending church services of Charismatics, I have decided on some personal reasons and observations why I don't want to participate in this kind of conduct. In part 2, I would like to share some of my thoughts concerning this.
(For the purposes of this article, when it is given as - speaking in tongues -, I am referring to the Biblical meaning; and - "speaking in tongues" -I am referring to the Pentecostal/Charismatic meaning.)
Charismatics will tell you that if you "speak in tongues," it is evidence that you have received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. It is evidence (or proof) then, that the one who "speaks in tongues" is a true Christian. The logical conclusion is that anyone who does not "speak in tongues" is not a true Christian. This is of course a misinterpretation of the Scriptures concerning the baptism of the Holy Spirit, however I will save that discussion for a future article. So, let's examine what is really being taught here.
God is not a respecter of persons. In other words, we are equal (if we are children of God) in His eyes. What He has promised to one, He has promised to all. If God has intended for the sign of speaking in tongues to extend beyond the time of the apostles, then all Christians would be able to perform this sign.
"Speaking in tongues" has no practical value. I said in part 1 of this article that speaking in tongues as was practiced by the apostles was to show with what authority they (the apostles) spoke, and to confirm that the Word of the Lord was true. What practical value or for what purpose does "speaking in tongues" have for us today? We have the Holy Bible which has been preserved by God and passed down from generation to generation to us today. Is it impossible for us to accept the Bible as the Word of God? Do we need it to be confirmed again by the sign of speaking in tongues? I had a Charismatic friend tell me that the reason I could not "speak in tongues" was because I did not have enough faith. Believe me when I tell you that I can fully accept the Holy Bible as the Word of God and Jesus Christ as His only Son without "speaking in tongues." Jesus said, "Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." (John 20:29) So who has the stronger faith, one who needs a "sign," or one who hears the Word of God and believes?
Is "speaking in tongues" a sign for unbelievers? "Speaking in tongues" is practiced by many conflicting doctrines, even some pagan religions practice a form of "speaking in tongues." There are many Scriptures which tell us in no uncertain terms that there is one doctrine which is true, not many. Paul tells us, "There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all." (Ephesians 4:4-6) If "speaking in tongues" is a sign for unbelievers, how is one to know which doctrine is the "one faith" that Paul speaks of?
The Charismatics claim that the gift of speaking in tongues is still in existence today. However, the speaking in tongues as practiced by the apostles and other New Testament people was being able to speak a language, a known language, which was foreign to the one doing the speaking, and the one doing the speaking having NOT been trained in that language. (See Acts Chapter 2) The "speaking in tongues" as practiced by the Charismatics (and others) is a supposed heavenly or spiritual language used only by angels and others in the spirit realm. The Charismatics also claim that there are some who have the gift of being able to interpret "tongues."
If the gift of tongues was one thing in the New Testament, and something else today, how can it be a continuation? If tongues was eventually changed from being able to speak an unknown (unknown to the speaker) language to a heavenly or spiritual language, where in the New Testament can we find this change occurring? If it did occur, wouldn't God have told us plainly that it had?
Where in God's Word does it tell us that the gift of speaking in tongues will be continued? The Scriptures neither imply nor promise the continuation of the gift. As a matter of fact, the Scriptures state that the gift will cease, "... whether there are tongues, they will cease," (1 Corinthians 13:8)
"Speaking in tongues" does nothing to unify the church. Any Christian today who does not see that the church is in dire need of unification is blind, deaf, and dumb. This supposed gift actually has the opposite affect: it divides the church. It pits believer against believer. The only unification it brings is that people who "speak in tongues" from many different conflicting doctrines all claim a supernatural gift. It is a unification of deceit.
"Speaking in tongues" is subject to perversion. If we cannot determine if something is real, then we are subject to being deceived by it. For example, if I were to come to your home and tell you that God sent me to minister to you and tell you exactly what you need to do to assure you an eternal home in heaven, would you listen to me? Perhaps, but would you believe everything - I mean EVERYTHING - I tell you? Probably not! But, if I could show you some miraculous gift that God had given me as a sign to those I was teaching, you would be a fool to ignore me. So, I visit you on Monday and "speak in tongues" as a sign, and you believe me lock, stock, and barrel. Then, preacher Joe visits you on Tuesday and shows you this same sign - "speaking in tongues" - and proceeds to teach you a different doctrine. Then you have a problem, who do you believe? We both "spoke in tongues." If both were given the sign by God, then why are we teaching different doctrines? Could it be that one is a deceiver? How can you tell? God would simply not do that to His children. God will not participate in something which can be used to deceive His people.
My friends in the Charismatic movement say that being a charismatic is not a belief, it is an experience. The thought here is that one cannot deny an experience. Well, I guess that is true, you cannot deny an experience. You cannot deny that you have had an experience. But surely, we can all see that experiences can be deceiving? I remember as a little boy who was afraid of the dark, I "saw" all kinds of monsters lurking in the shadows of my room when the lights were turned out. That was a real experience. I would immediately cover up my head, and only occasionally venture a peek. I would "see" those monsters and go back undercover. I do not deny for one moment those experiences. I did have those experiences, and the memories are still with me today some forty years later. But, I was deceived! There were no monsters in my room. There was no murderer waiting to cut me with a knife. They simply did not exist. Had you tried to convince me of that fact when I was five or six years old, I would not have believed you. My experience told me otherwise. Can we deny our experiences? No! Do they always tell us the truth? No! What can we rely on to always, always, always tell us the truth? Gods Word!
Brothers and sisters, examine the Scriptures. Take particular notice of Acts Chapter 2 verses 5-13. Read this in the light that speaking in tongues is being able to speak in a language in which the speaker has received no training, and you will understand the meaning of speaking in tongues. This is the only meaning that this term - speaking in tongues - has in the Scriptures!
All Scriptures quoted are from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Stephen Kingery is an author, preacher, teacher and founder of The Home Bible Study Institute.