My association with Pentecostal churches stemmed from my family background. I grew up in a denomination whose members commonly used the “gift of tongues”. Being from a broken home may have contributed to my need to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus loved and understood me. When I began speaking in “tongues” as a teenager, I welcomed the emotional comfort it gave me.
I didn’t question this “gift”, until I married my Adventist wife. Wondering why she and her church family didn’t practice “tongues” led me to a deep search in the Bible for where the truth lay in this matter.
I continued to rely on praying in “tongues” for a time early in our marriage, as I felt it gave me a closer relationship with Jesus. Even though I now understand that Jesus can read the heart and know us, no matter what language we use, my use of “tongues” did seem to be what I felt I needed at the time. However, as I matured, so did my spiritual understanding of what true fellowship with Jesus is.
This growth came gradually as I studied more and more what the Bible teaches about this spiritual gift. I share with you now some of the things I learned that changed my perspective and made me want to share my personal journey with Jesus and my deliverance from a need to speak in “tongues”.
Tongues, as Found in 1 Corinthians 14
My concern about this topic of “tongues” focused mainly on the incorrect interpretation of the fourteenth chapter of first Corinthians. The key to understanding this chapter is to know that Paul was dealing with a problem in the church at Corinth, and he is by no means condoning a particular kind of tongues in the manner that is associated with its current use in some churches. This chapter is falsely used to support incoherent “tongues” that these churches claim as evidence of the infilling of the Holy Spirit.
Something else that came to my attention was that the word “unknown” in the King James Version was not in the original text in 1 Corinthians 14:2, 4. Unfortunately, the translators of the 1600s supplied this description of tongues. Almost all later translations, however, omit the word unknown when referring to the gift.
1 Corinthians 14 deals mostly with the manner in which God’s gifts are used in the church. The Lord asks us to be thoughtful in the way we handle His gifts, using spiritual discernment, so that edification of the body of Christ is achieved. We are told in this chapter, “Let all things be done decently and in order.” (v. 40) “…that the church may receive edifying.” (v. 5).
Reason for the gift of tongues, or languages
The reason God gave this gift of speaking other languages, it appears, was to further the gospel. There was an urgent need that all present in the congregation would understand the gospel, which was spreading quickly following Pentecost, where “every man heard them speak in his own language.” Acts 2:6 KJV
The “tongues” movement today is not in line with Bible teaching, and as I have found, may even be an abomination to the Lord.
Many are claiming that this use of incoherent “tongues” is a gift from God. As Paul reminds us, the Holy Spirit would never give a gift that causes such division and confusion. But, Satan is involved whenever counterfeit truth is presented. He passes off the false as true to cause deception and confusion in God’s church.
What’s wrong with “tongues” today?
Many mistakenly conclude that Paul gives us permission to babble in an incoherent assortment of syllables, arranged in such a way that sounds like an authentic language or a language that only the Holy Spirit can understand. They misapply scriptures and take them out of context to support their reasoning. Verses are used like the one in Romans 8:26: “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” But, they fail to read the last four important words of this verse: “which cannot be uttered.”
Most “tongues-speaking” churches will use in their services what they refer to as “tongues and interpretation”. They claim their utterances are prophetic when many in the church begin to speak in unknown languages, even though a few claim to interpret the messages. Most of the confusion that results from multiple “tongues” being spoken in these services could be avoided, however, if they would remember that “…God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.” 1 Corinthians 14:33. And that “no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.” 2 Peter 1:20.
Why “tongues” are not edifying the church
Revelation 19:10 says that prophecy is the testimony of Jesus. Jesus always spoke in words that were understood by his listeners. His testimony is always to be clearly communicated to those who are seeking to hear and understand the gospel message. The gospel of Christ was the doctrine that the disciples taught, the good news Jesus left for them to preach. Jesus also promised to send the Holy Spirit to give them power to share the gospel to the world, which turned out at Pentecost to be done in many languages that they had never learned. We are responsible to follow the same example that Jesus gave in His word, the Bible.
A verse that verifies this concept is: “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” Eph. 4:29 Notice it says that edifying grace would be ministered to the hearer, not to the speaker of the message. This seems to disagree with “tongues” speakers who claim they alone are at times blessed by their experience of “speaking in tongues”.
And finally, a Bible verse that should give us all pause is found in James 1:26, which says: “If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.”
As I mentioned previously, 1 Corinthians 14 was a chapter I prayerfully struggled with for years. I hope to share with you in a future blog how my thoughts developed over time. Taking this chapter apart, verse by verse, I will share with you my thoughts and findings that helped me formulate my present understanding of this important Bible doctrine. This method of studying Paul’s counsel to the Corinthians corrected my former misconceptions about the role of “tongues” in the spiritual life of a Christian.
My burning desire is to inform those still experiencing the false security this practice promotes and to help them see that Jesus loves and accepts us, without the questionable gift of “tongues” used in so many Pentecostal church communities and homes. I believe it may very well be a greater hindrance to our spiritual development than was ever imagined.