Scriptural Proofs Against the Modern Tongues Theory

Susan Mutch

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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:

(1) 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.

(2) 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?

(3) 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.

(4) 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.

(5) 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).

(6) Jesus never spoke in “tongues” and He had the fullness of the Spirit.

(7) 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.

(8) “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?”

(9) Whatever the Spirit imparts is intelligible. The modern phenomenon of ecstatic utterance is unintelligible.

(10) 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.

(11) 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).

(12) Paul said that when we pray or sing in the spirit, we were to do it “with the understanding also” (I Cor. 14:15).

(13) 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.

(14) 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).

(15) 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.

(16) 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.

(17) 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).

(18) 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.

(19) 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.

(20) 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

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18 thoughts on “Scriptural Proofs Against the Modern Tongues Theory”

    • Interesting that this writer does not even mention “interpretation of tongues”, and yet Paul had explained very well the orderly conduct and purpose of speaking in tongues, in both one’s personal life for self edification and in a corporate setting, with interpretation, so it doesn’t necessarily have to be a known language of the world. This goes beyond human intellect, which is what God is all about, or we would know it all, and that is obviously not the case. Without interpretation, it could just be babble, as the writer says. Paul also mentioned that he wished all would speak in tongues and that he himself speaks in tongues more than all of them, although he did mention prophecy is better.

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  1. I am in agreement with your article, yet am having a hard time finding a body of believers I can fellowship with, without this being a debate. This is really frustrating.

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  2. Hi,
    I have a question. If as humans we will sin, does the Holy Spirit leave us? I mean, if I tell a lie to get out of trouble, I have sinned just the same as if I have murdered someone. At that point am I no longer saved? This article confuses me a little with the statement “By far, the majority of people claiming to have the gift of modern tongues, do not live free from committing sin.” and “Sin is disobedience, and it is impossible to receive the Holy Spirit in that condition.” – wouldn’t that be everybody?

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    • When Jesus said “It is finished”, that meant ALL sin was paid for, for All people and for All time, or He would have to be put back on the Cross each and every day for the sins everyone still commits. That’s not about to happen because He is now sitting at the right hand of the Father! None of us is without sin, and if we are truly honest, we would admit that, but the devil is the accuser of the brethren and hopes to have you living a life of guilt and condemnation. We are under a new covenant now, and a balanced teaching of Grace and Faith is the key to living a life of freedom, not freedom to sin, but rather, freedom from sin, as Christ has redeemed us totally. I’ve found a lot of freedom from guilt and legalism listening to Andrew Wommack at awmi.net. Have a listen to his Spirit, Soul and Body teaching and hopefully you’ll get some freedom as well.

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      • The only SIn forgiven is the accidental sin. NO sin that was done ON purpose is forgiven UNLESS they repented of it in the prescribed order of repentance . When they do that and pledge not to do it again then they are forgiven as long as they stay in The Way! you are only as good as your last deed. Repeating sin makes it difficult to be considered genuine in repentance any longer and you ingrain a habit that is difficult to stop. That why we need to holy spirit all the time to help us stay righteous. Many examples of righteous but previously sinful beings in Scripture.

  3. Hi! How do we explain that the miracles performed by God throughout the world are done by those that speak in tongues and function in the gifts that Paul spoke of in Cor. chapter 12? Also, how do we explain Cornelius, his family and all his servants speaking in tongues and prophesying in Acts chapter ten. Again, in chapter 19, where 12 men of God were met my Paul and partner and they received Holy Spirit and started speaking in tongues and prophesying? And documentation that tongues was still being spoken 400 -500 years after Christ ascended from this earth? How do we explain dead being raised and food being multiplied by people that speak in tongues?

    Your teaching shows no documentation of tongues stopping, but only opinion and speculation. Of course, it is much more than just speaking in tongues; it goes along with functioning in the gifts and much of what Paul teaches in 1 Cor. chapters 12, 13 and 14.

    Do we remove 1 Cor. 12, 13 and 13 from our bible and the Great Commission, where Mark tells us that Jesus stated prior to His ascension, that as went on our way discipling others, that we would be casting out demons, speaking in tongues, etc.

    Of course, the men outside the house where tongues came in Acts 2:4, understood the Galilean’s. We are told in Acts 2:11 that they were speaking “the wonderful works of God.” And note how Peter became bold and spoke and 3,000 people came to Christ that day.

    It’s bad enough to teach that tongues is not for this age, but to teach it was even real in the age of the disciples, is really quite sad and in much error

    I realize that you are convinced of what you believe. All that I can do is hope you will restudy on what you base your belief and that you pray for God to show you, if possibly you be in error. Can you not realize how stretched out of portion, and doesn’t even make sense, that God sent the Galileans to received other worldly languages and not a heavenly language, which is explained in 1 Cor. 14:2.

    Check out Heidi Baker and her husband Roland, in Africa.

    Thanks and God’s blessings on you and yours!

    Gary

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  4. I attend a Bible study, where a couple people pray in tongue and then interpret the prayer into English. All who are attending the Bible study say that they are Christian. Then why is anyone speaking in tongue, when everyone present speaks English? I am very confused about this.

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  5. I believe this topic is causing division among the church and this article makes some very good points. Thank you, we live in crazy times! I believe that some people may “speak in tongues ” but to what spirit they are speaking to is in question. How can it edify if one doesn’t know what they said???

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  6. The topic is not well/exhaustively researched, eisegesis is clear and insight into the topic might be lacking. Also see the context of 1 Cor. 12-14 as a whole (as it was one chapter originally) clearly viewing the reference in 1 Cor. 13:1 between the language of men and angels… Thus, natural and supernatural.

    A sincere observation.
    Shalom

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  7. Speaking in tongues is still for today for those who seek it, it is a gift, so your saying that if you don’t speak in tongues that you are perfect and never sin??????

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  8. I believe the Lord sent me here. I’ve been going back and forth for a long time with this. Than you for helping to open my eyes.
    Tony

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  9. If a truely born again brother. Spoke in toungs in his prayer closet. Would recive him in fellowship. If he didn’t come to you preaching speaking in an unknown language. Would break bread with him.

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  10. John was talking about the Spirit of prophecy. If the things a prophet warns you about doesn’t come true, he’s a false prophet. Paul is just letting us know that it is the same Holy Spirit that gives all gifts. The gift of tongues is a true gift. When you are praying over someone, the Holy Spirit acts on your behalf. But Paul objected to people praying out loud in tongues, distracting from his sermon, etc. When you are alone with the Lord, praying in tongues is very powerful, as is the Lord’s prayer. Most of this stuff opposed to speaking in tongues, is not even Biblical. You people who fall for this so easily, need to search God’s Word yourself. Jesus Himself said in Matthew 12:31, “Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men.”

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  11. Interesting article. There are some good points here. It seems though that many of the opposing views toward tongues are directed at the highly visible signs and wonders movement (NAR). Understandable, but yet this does not accurately portray the use of tongues in the world today, or over the past 2000 years. Millions of believers who speak in tongues do not flop around on the ground and scream. In fact, I had never heard the phrase “ecstatic tongues” until reading articles regarding the NAR. That’s definitely not what the use of tongues has been for me.

    It is also interesting that in Acts 2 the onlookers “heard” them speak in their own language. It isn’t actually stated that different human languages were spoken, but rather that they were “heard”. Certainly, how could anyone speaking in tongues on the day of Pentecost know for a fact that they were actually speaking a foreign language? The Bible clearly states that the speaker does not understand what he is saying.

    Nonetheless, I am happy that people are studying the Scriptures and trust that God will lead us into truth. This lost world needs the testimony of Jesus so much!

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  12. In regards to the first main point…. please note that the Spirit is giving the utterance. It is a language, but not one that the speakers know and give utterance to. Hearers may or may not understand. True, we have example in Acts 2 of observers understanding what is being spoken. To say this is always required is to impose the context of Acts 2 upon other passages without justification.

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