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"Tongues," Questioned and Answered Pt 1

Updated on October 6, 2009

Skeptics and Seekers

There are some Christians who have sincere questions about the gift of speaking in tongues. These Christians are usually seeking the baptism of the Holy Ghost. Believing the evidence of such is this gift, they would like as much information as possible. Then there are those Christians who question the scriptural accuracy of the beliefs of Charismatic and Pentecostal Christians pertaining to this gift.

I’ve decided to write this hub to both of these groups. To the first to encourage their decision to seek what they believe to be a deeper relationship with Christ, by receiving the infilling of the Holy Ghost. To the second not necessarily to convince them of our beliefs, but rather for them to at least understand why some of us believe the way we do concerning this issue.

To accomplish this I’m going to go over the questions I have encountered most about this subject. There are 8 in all. Although I cannot speak for all Charismatic and Pentecostal believers my answers are according to my own personal beliefs.

Before I go any further I want to point out that I believe with all of my heart that this is a minor issue. That although very interesting, has no relevance whatsoever to the salvation of any believer. I know that some people may get offended and want to leave long comments in order to set me straight. I welcome criticism but don’t major on the minors.

My pastor once told me that the difference between a mature Christian and an immature Christian is this. An immature Christian feels a need to set everyone straight on every issue whether minor or major. A mature Christian may not always agree with what another believes, but is able to distinguish between the two. A mature Christian can say to himself “you know what, its okay for him to be wrong about that.” This is not saying that such a Christian would leave you in ignorance. Just that he would simply state why he disagrees and then leave it up to you to decide. So please by all means if you believe I’m wrong tell me why. I may respond that I have considered your argument and then explain why I still disagree. If that happens we then agree to disagree but we do not enter into foolish contentions.

Titus 3:9 But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.

Not all of these questions are important to every believer. So feel free to skim through this and read only the questions that interest you. I will embolden each question to make this easier to skim through.

As usual for a very long reading I like to divide my hubs into two or three parts. Too make it easier for the mental digestion. It’s easier to eat an elephant one meal at a time than to try to take it on in just one setting. So this hub will be divided into three parts.

This one will cover this question.

1. “Isn’t tongues always an earthly language only given in order to preach the Gospel to unbelievers?”

The others will cover these questions.

2. “If I hear someone speaking in tongues and they seem to be saying the same words over and over again, or stuttering over there words, could that be evidence that this person is faking?” 3.” Doesn’t the Spirit only give the gift of tongues to certain people as He wills, and not to everybody who would ask for it?” 4. “Paul said he would rather speak with understanding than with tongues. Isn’t he saying there that tongues are not desirable?” 5. “Aren’t the gifts like tongues passed away, and not for the church today?” 6. “At some charismatic services, several if not all the people will speak in tongues at the same time. Doesn’t the bible say that only two or three people at most should speak in tongues at once?” 7. “Don’t you get the baptism of the Holy Ghost when you get saved?” 8. “Why would I want to be baptized in the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking in tongues?”

Now on to the first question.

1. Isn’t tongues, always an earthly language only given in order to preach the Gospel to unbelievers?

Many people believe that tongues is always a language from here on Earth used to preach the Gospel to foreign cultures. For example if I ran into someone that could only speak Spanish and not English. God would give me the gift of tongues enabling me to speak Spanish. But only long enough for me to share the gospel with that person.

They say that is exactly what happened in Acts 2:4, which records the first time the gift was manifested within the church. Most of them base this presumption on the Greek word from which we translate the English word tongues. This word is glossa which means the language or dialect used by a particular people.

They say that since the Greek word that the scriptures used is glossa, it has to be a language of a particular people. This proves to them that the form of tongues you hear Pentecostal Christians speaking in, which is not the language of a particular people but sounds to them like gibberish, is not scriptural. They also say this because the people in that passage, heard the disciples speaking in there own languages.

I believe that the disciples in Acts 2:4 were speaking in what sounds to most people like gibberish, the people that heard them speaking in there own languages were also receiving a gift from God. That is the gift of interpretation of tongues. (1 Corinthians 12:10)

First let me address the Greek word glossa. Let’s say that you were there when the church first received the gift. You witnessed Acts 2:4. Let’s say that they were not speaking in any language from earth but were speaking in a strange language that no one had ever heard before. Let’s say God called on you to write down what you saw. What English word would you use to describe this phenomenon? Of course you would use the English word “language.” Then 2000 years from now if someone were interpreting the meaning of the word “language” from English, it would mean the language of a particular people. You might be saying to yourself “I would have said strange language though.” That’s true, but if you look closely at Acts 2:4 you’ll see that it says “other tongues.” The Greek word used for other is “heteros” which from my understanding could also be translated “different” or “strange.” So the writer of Acts 2:4 just may have been saying “strange languages.”

I said from my understanding this could mean such because I am not a Greek scholar, nor do I think I need to be. I have found from researching on different subjects that even Greek scholars disagree with each other on biblical issues. Even the original languages of the Bible can be misinterpreted. In others words, on any theological issue whether you are reading from the English, or the original Greek, you can find certain passages that seem to support your beliefs and others that seem to contradict them.

I have heard way too many preachers try to give Christians different meaning from the scriptures or try to support there particular beliefs using the Greek. No wonder many Christians are discouraged about studying the Bible for themselves. They think they’ll never truly understand it unless they get a degree! Or how about the sinner who defies God’s word saying “it’s been translated from so many different languages who knows what it really says.” (I wonder where they got such an idea.) If the God we serve isn’t capable of preserving his word through the centuries and from one language to another for all who truly desire to know it, He is no God!

Not only is our God able to preserve His Word, He is His Word! (John 1:1-3.) The Bible is alive! If you want to understand the Bible, you must develop a relationship with it. It is a living document. The answer to biblical research is not researching dead languages but rather reading a living book. All of it! Not just the isolated parts that seam to support your preferences. In other words you must know the context.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying that there is no profit in understanding the Greek. I am simply saying that such a study is not necessary for the purpose of establishing theology and doctrine. Studying a reliable English translation of the Bible, such as the King James Version or New King James Version etc in context is sufficient.

In the case of tongues I believe the context proves two things.

1. The disciples were not speaking any earthly languages.

2. Tongues was not used exclusively to preach the gospel to unbelievers.

Now lets talk about what language they were speaking. Some people say they were speaking in the languages of all the people there. For example one disciple was speaking in Hebrew, while another may have been speaking in Greek. There was at least one disciple speaking the language of each person present.

Well we know from Acts 1:15 that there were 120 disciples present, and we know from Acts 2:5 that there were Jews from every nation under Heaven and also gentile converts. It seems to me, like Jews out of every nation under heaven would speak a little more than 120 languages. In fact a lot more! But for the sake of argument let’s say that there were only 120 different languages represented in that mass.

Imagine 120 preachers yelling in 120 languages at the same time. Imagine that one of them is speaking English. Now, even in your imagination, can you understand a word that preacher is saying in all that chatter? Remember you have to be with everyone else that speaks English, no one can stray to far from that preacher or he’ll miss it for sure. It’s a good thing that every person of every nation all happened to be together around the correct disciple at the same time. It’s also a good thing that not too many people of any one language group were there, or someone may have been crowded away from his assigned disciple.

The context doesn’t say that the disciples were speaking in all of the languages represented. It says that the Jews heard the disciples speaking in there own language. In fact Acts 2:8 says that they all heard each of them speaking in there own language! I’m saying that if you were there you wouldn’t have heard one disciple speaking in English, you would have heard all of them speaking in English! And you, like the Jews, would have been perfectly aware that all the other people that didn’t speak English, were hearing them in there own languages as well!

Another reason I believe they had to be speaking in what is referred to as gibberish is because not everyone could understand them. I know that Acts 2:6 says that all of them heard, but I believe the context reveals that to be a hyperbole, like for example texts in the Old Testament that say things like “all the cattle died and of the cattle that didn’t die ---.” I believe that those with open hearts were given the interpretation and those that would be mockers were not.

In Acts 2:12 it says that all were amazed, but in Acts 2:13 the very next verse, it says others mocked. What does it mean others mocked? I thought “all” were amazed. Like I said, simply a hyperbole. In fact the “others” in verse 13 who were not amazed but rather mocked, are the ones I refer to when I say some were not given the interpretation. I say this because the Bible says that they thought the disciples were drunk.

If you heard someone speaking in your language, someone that you knew did not otherwise even know your language, would you think it was because he was drunk? If so then tell me. Just how drunk do you have to be before you can speak a foreign language? The fact is, these mockers obviously heard a bunch of disciples yelling a bunch of what sounded like gibberish to them. This is why they thought they were drunk. You would have thought so too. 1 Corinthians 14:2,5 says that no man can understand tongues without God’s interpretation of them.

Next lets talk about tongues supposedly only being used to spread the Gospel to people who otherwise can not understand your language. I heard a television evangelist say once that every time tongues was used throughout the entire Bible it was strictly for the purpose of spreading the gospel to the unbeliever who could not understand the language of the apostles. This preacher either has never read Acts chapter 10, or he just ignored it. I say this because there is no way he could have misunderstood or misinterpreted it.

In that chapter, Peter came and preached the gospel to gentile unbelievers. The text says in verse 44-46 that while Peter was preaching the gospel to them, the spirit fell on the gentiles and the gentiles began to speak in tongues. First, they were not speaking in tongues because Peter would not have understood them otherwise. They had been communicating just fine in verses 24-43 before anyone began to speak in tongues! Second they were not given the gift of tongues in order to preach the gospel to Peter. Peter came there too preach the gospel to them!

People who preach that tongues are exclusively to preach the gospel to unbelievers’ base this on a passage in 1st Corinthians 14:22, which says that tongues are a sign not for believers, but for unbelievers, and that prophesy is a sign for believers. Like I said earlier, you must know the Word, you must know it’s context.

The very next verse says that if an unbeliever saw the whole church come together in one place speaking in tongues he will say the church is out of it’s mind. But the verse after that says that if he comes in and sees you prophesying he will be converted.

I thought it said that tongues was for the unbeliever and prophesy for the believer? If this sounds confusing to you just go backwards before all of those verses to verse 21. Where it says that God will speak to them with men of other lips yet they will not hear Him. Paul is quoting Isaiah 28:11,12.

They will not hear Him!

Paul wasn’t saying that tongues were a sign to convert unbelievers in verse 22, he was saying that prophesy was! Tongues are a sign for mockers who will not convert! The verse that says that if an unbeliever comes in and sees the whole church together in one place speaking in tongues will think it is mad, is not saying that the whole church speaking in tongues will prevent them from converting. Because the whole church did (in the Bible) all come together in one place, and all of them did speak in tongues. As a result unbelievers were converted! They became believers! But mockers (also unbelievers, the kind Paul referred to in 1st Corinthians 14:22) did think they were out of there mind, actually accusing them of being drunk! I’m sure you’ve figured it out, I’m referring again to Acts chapter two.

Paul was saying that tongues are a sign for people who want to stay unbelievers. God will speak to them and they will not hear him! If you defy God, He will give you enough rope to hang yourself. But if you are an honest skeptic, God will reach out to you either by prophesy which is a sign for believers (people who would convert) or by the interpretation of tongues which is equal to and the same as prophesy. 1st Corinthians 14:5.

Also you will know by the context that Paul was not saying that tongues was a sign exclusively to defy mockers. He was simply saying it is such a sign. We know by reading such passages as Acts chapter 10:44-46 and Acts 19:6 that tongues was also a sign, that the gift of the Holy Ghost had been poured out on the person or persons speaking in tongues, as well.

So the first question, “Isn’t tongues always an earthly language only given in order to preach the gospel to unbelievers?” My answer is “no.” Tongues are a language no man can understand without God.

1st Corinthians 14:2 For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.

Tongues are a sign for mockers and unbelievers who don’t want to hear God..

1st Corinthians 14:21 In the law it is written. With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people: and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord.

Tongues are a sign to believers of the infilling of the Holy Ghost.

Acts 10:45, 46 and they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God.

Tongues are for the self edification of the Spirit filled believer.

1st Corinthians 14:4 He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.

That will conclude the first part of this hub. I hope you enjoyed it and learned something from it. Once again the purpose of this is not to convince anyone one way or another. It is simply to clarify why I believe what I do concerning this subject.

In the next two parts as I said earlier I will be answering these questions according to my understanding and beliefs.

2. “If I hear someone speaking in tongues and they seem to be saying the same words over and over again, or stuttering over there words, could that be evidence that this person is faking?”

3.” Doesn’t the Spirit only give the gift of tongues to certain people as He wills, and not to everybody who would ask for it?”

4. “Paul said he would rather speak with understanding than with tongues. Isn’t he saying there that tongues are not desirable?”

5. “Aren’t the gifts like tongues passed away, and not for the church today?”

6. “At some charismatic services, several if not all the people will speak in tongues at the same time. Doesn’t the bible say that only two or three people at most should speak in tongues at once?”

7. “Don’t you get the baptism of the Holy Ghost when you get saved?”

8. “Why would I want to be baptized in the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking in tongues?”

I will try to get these posted within the next 24 to 48 hours. For now God bless.


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