The apostle John gave a warning that is imperative for all to heed in these last days: “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” I Jn. 4:1.
With the same love and concern for souls that caused John to give this warning, so we write this article.
Many today testify to be “speaking in tongues.” Is this being promoted by a spirit which is “of God” or is it “another spirit” (II Cor. 11:4)? A careful study of the New Testament reveals that modern tongues is without scriptural foundation. By the Word of God, it is proven to be error by the following:
- The Greek word glossa means either language or the organ of speech. Confusion could be cleared up by replacing the word tongue(s) in the Bible with the word language(s). “And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other ‘languages’ as the Spirit gave them utterance.” It is error to give tongues a different meaning other than an intelligible language.
- Modern tongues advocates frequently teach that speaking in tongues is the evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. There is no such teaching in the Bible. It also seems strange that those with this alleged gift can still speak in it when they backslide. Are we to presume they still have the Holy Spirit?
- Contrary to the teaching that tongues is for all believers, Paul tells us in I Cor. 12:4–11, 18, 27–31, that the true gift of speaking in foreign languages is not. “Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations … for to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom … to another the gifts of healing … to another prophecy … to another divers kinds of tongues … Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? … do all speak with tongues?” When we understand the context of these scriptures, the answer is clearly NO! All do not speak in languages, just as all are not given the gift of teaching or prophecy.
- The authentic gift, as received on the day of Pentecost, enabled the disciples to speak forth “the wonderful works of God” in various foreign languages. This greatly advanced the spread of the gospel on that day, as there was a great multitude there “out of every nation under heaven … every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed … saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galileans? And how hear we every man in our own language, wherein we were born?” This ability to speak in these foreign languages was given to communicate the gospel. This, and this only, is what the gift of tongues is.
- There are a number of instances in the Bible where believers were filled with the Holy Spirit, and no mention is made of speaking in tongues (Cf. Acts 4:8, 31; 7:55; 8:17; 9:17; 13:9).
- Jesus never spoke in “tongues” and He had the fullness of the Spirit.
- It is error to say that unknown (unintelligible to man) tongues are given by the Holy Spirit. In I Cor. 14:2, 4, 13–14 the word unknown is italicized in most copies of the authorized version, which indicates that it is not found in the original Greek. Confusion can be cleared up by leaving out the word unknown in I Cor. 14, or inserting the word foreign instead.
- “For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful.” I Cor. 14:14. Contrary to false beliefs, this scripture is not advocating a prayer language that the person praying cannot understand and that only God understands. It simply means that if someone prays in a foreign language in the congregation, though he himself understands what he is saying, it is unfruitful to everyone else, because they do not know that particular language. “How shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth now what thou sayest?”
- Whatever the Spirit imparts is intelligible. The modern phenomenon of ecstatic utterance is unintelligible.
- Rom. 8:26 is often cited to support the theory that there is a “prayer language” in which one prays in utterances he does not understand. The scripture states, “the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” If they “cannot be uttered”—cannot be vocalized by human expression—then how could any claim to do it? These groanings refer to the intercession of the Holy Spirit, not to a believer’s prayer language.
- In I Cor. 14, Paul is dealing with a problem in the congregation with people praying and speaking out in different foreign languages that most didn’t understand. “For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue [foreign language] speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries” (Vs. 2). You could preach a wonderful message in the French language, but if no one in the room understands French, then you are only speaking to God. “Except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air” (Vs.9).
- Paul said that when we pray or sing in the spirit, we were to do it “with the understanding also” (I Cor. 14:15).
- Paul said he would rather speak five words with his understanding, then ten thousand words in a foreign language. It seems modern tongues enthusiasts would rather jibber jabber ten thousand syllables than speak five understandable words.
- Tongues are not a sign that the believer has the Holy Spirit, because Paul said “tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not” (I Cor. 14:22).
- Since tongues are a sign “to them that believe not,” then it cannot be a special prayer language as they would have us believe, because that is not a sign to unbelievers.
- People under the influence of the modern tongues spirit sometimes lose control of themselves. The Bible tells me that if a man cannot bridle his tongue, his religion is vain (Jms. 1:26). There will neither be any uncontrollable, or unseemly conduct energized by the Holy Spirit.
- If one has the Holy Spirit, they will manifest the fruit of holiness. Thousands upon thousands who thrill to babble in their modern tongues, manifest the fruit of the flesh—adultery, fornication, hatred, emulations, wrath, envyings, etc. (Gal. 5:19–21). We believe not every spirit, that it is of God, because we “know them by their fruits” (Matt. 7:16).
- There are only three biblical accounts of people receiving the gift of foreign languages. Advocates of the modern “gift” have stamped this as a sign for having the Spirit, yet have not understood the significance of the true gift being given in these instances …
(1) Pentecost marked the inauguration of the age of the coming of the Holy Spirit. Special signs were given in proof of it. The gift of languages given emphasized the universality of the plan of salvation, as the work of the disciples was to go “into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature,” Jew and Gentile.
(2) At Caesarea (Acts 10:46) God gave the same gift as the inaugural event at Pentecost as a witness to the Jews that all the privileges of the gospel were now extended to the Gentiles. They also understood what they were saying (Vs 46), just as did the hearers at Pentecost.
(3) At Ephesus (Acts 19:1–6) those who had only known the baptism of John came into the full knowledge of God’s plan through Christ, to whom the Holy Spirit bears witness (Cf. Jn. 15:26). Here again, they spoke in an intelligible language (Vs. 6), as to prophesy is to speak “unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort” (I Cor. 14:3). Men cannot be edified by what they cannot understand.
- In ancient times pagan people spoke in “tongues” under the influence of spirits that were not of God. This is the same phenomenon manifest in the modern tongues movement.
- By far, the majority of people claiming to have the gift of modern tongues, do not live free from committing sin. I have heard this testimony repeatedly from their own lips. Acts 5:32 tells us that God gives the Holy Spirit to “them that obey him.” Sin is disobedience, and it is impossible to receive the Holy Spirit in that condition. Since they can’t have the Holy Spirit, what spirit is it that they do have? Where did their supposed gift of the Spirit come from?
A manifestation for which there is no biblical foundation, is but a supposed gift of the Spirit. To allow or tolerate that which is not sanctioned by the Word of God is to leave the door wide open for deception.
Some ideas were sourced from an article by Boyce Blackwelder