Tongue Speaking

by Wayne Wells

Disclaimer: Please Read

[Wayne Wells is a Pastor with the Church of Christ that teaches one must be baptized in water to be saved. This is erroneous and salvation is by grace alone through the person of the Lord Jesus Christ alone. What he has written in this article is in keeping with what the Bible teaches on the subject of tongues. I also do not advocate any Bible Version except the King James. I have thoroughly reviewed and edited where necessary. I have done this to insure that my readers will receive the most biblically accurate article as possible.] - Dr. Ken Matto


Pentecostals and Charismatics claim speaking in tongues is for today. How can we know if they are telling the truth? Different claims are made concerning tongues. We must go to the Scriptures to find the truth. Tongues were promised by Jesus - Mark 16:17-20 They were told to go into all the world and teach the gospel. Gifts were given to confirm their words 16:20. Hebrews 2:1-4 "Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard Him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to His own will?"

This was first fulfilled in Acts 2:1-4 The context plainly reveals what kinds of tongues were being spoken - 2:6-12 (at least 15 mentioned)

Only two other instances of tongue speaking in the Bible. Acts 10 Cornelius, Acts 19:12 at Ephesus Only thing said about it in both passages is that they did it.

The only passage where we are shown what kind of tongues were being spoken shows it was the ability to speak a language not previously known. Where is this being done to day?

The purpose of miraculous signs was to confirm the words of the Apostles. The need for extra-ordinary proof is understandable when one realizes the nature of the message: Jesus of Nazareth, who had been crucified on the Roman cross, had been raised from the dead and is now in Heaven at the right hand of God, the heavenly Father had given all power and authority. It was because of His life, death, and resurrection that sins could be forgiven. The longest discussion of Tongues in the Bible is 1 Cor. 14. It was written to regulate tongue speaking in the Corinthian church during a time when everyone agrees that tongue speaking was available.

Much misunderstanding has come from KJV inserting "unknown" in this chapter 6 times. It is in italics to show that it was added by the translators.

Paul is not dealing with some kind of tongue different from Pentecost, but that gift being practiced in the assembly. He is dealing with the abuse of this gift.

Context - In the Church 14:4 "edifies the church" 14:5 "so that the church may receive edifying" 14:6 "If I come to you speaking in tongues" 14:12 "for the edification of the church" 14:19 "in the church I desire to speak five words" 14:23-24 "If therefore the whole church should assemble together and an unbeliever enters" 14:25 "among you" 14:26 "when you assemble" 14:28 "in the church" 14:33, 34, 35 "in the church."

Regulation of Tongues in the Assembly In the First Century Prophesying is better than tongue speaking. Not just foretelling the future, but the ability to teach by revelation. 14:1-4 Desire to prophesy Chap. 14 begins and ends with this. (14:39) 14:5-6 The teaching must be understood or it is worthless. 14:7-9 All things must be understood to have benefit. 14:10-12 If you cannot understand one another, there is no communication. 14:18-19 In the church we must speak so we can be understood!

14:20 Even in the time when everyone agrees there was tongue speaking they were not to be childish about it, thinking that speaking in a tongue has benefit when no one understand it. They were like children playing with a tool not understanding the purpose of what they are using. (Samuel hitting the keyboard)

14:21-22 quotes Isaiah 28:11. Sign of Babylonians coming speaking in an unknown language. God sent prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah to speak to them. They rejected the plain language, said God would not judge them. Here was evidence to show who were the true prophets. This foreign language was used by God to give evidence to unbelieving Jews. In the assembly there is no place for signs, but there is a great need for prophesying!

14:23-25 If an unbeliever comes in and everyone is speaking in a tongue, he will think they are crazy. If they are teaching concerning the salvation brought to Jesus. Hebrews 4:12 "For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."

14:26-33 in the Assembly, ALL things are to be done for edification. Three at the MOST may speak.

14:32 Spirit of the prophets are to be under their control.

14:37 These are the commands of God! 1 Cor. 14:38 But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant. KJV, NKJV, ASV 1 Cor. 14:38 If he ignores this, he himself will be ignored. NIV 1 Cor. 14:38 But if anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized. NASV Slight difference in MSS. Whichever is the exact meaning, the majority who claim to be speaking in tongues by the Holy Spirit are ignoring the teaching of the Holy Spirit. 1 Timothy 6:3-5 If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, 4 he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, 5 useless wrangling of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself. Foreign Languages Versus Ecstatic Utterances Biblical tongues were foreign languages (Acts 2:4,6,8,11). Many Pentecostal claim that tongues are simply ecstatic utterances. What these people teach on "tongues" is not in harmony with God's Word. Even in their own literature, they teach things that should wake them up from their deception.

The devil will be right on hand to challenge your experience, telling you that you made it all up or that it is foolish and crazy (everyone seems to experience this testing). But if you continue in faith, the Lord will give you confidence in your new tongue. Christian News, Nov. 25, 1968, page 11.

Are we to believe that the apostles experienced this testing on the Day of Pentecost?

Pentecostals claim tongue-speaking is a sign to the believer that he has received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This, too is a clear-cut contradiction of scripture,

I Corinthians 14:22 Wherefore tongues are a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not..."

Many Pentecostals teach that all believers should be baptized in the Holy Spirit and, as evidence of it, speak in tongues. The Bible says that even in the First Century, not all had the same gifts and not all spoke in tongues (I Cor. 12:4-11, 30). From Heaven Or Men? Dr. John Kildahl, a psychotherapist, conducted a ten-year, in-depth study of modern day tongue-speaking. The importance of the leader was well illustrated by the fact that the style of glossolalia adapted by the group bore a close resemblance to the way in which the leader spoke. A linguist engaged in glossolalia research found that prominent visiting speakers affected whole groups of glossolalists. Although no two tongue-speakers sounded exactly alike, if the prominent leader spoke in a kind of Old Testament Hebraic style, those who were taught by him also spoke in this manner. If the leader of the group evidenced Spanish diction and mannerism, his followers also developed that style. It is not uncommon for linguists to be able to tell which prominent itinerant glossolalist has introduced a congregation to tongue-speaking. Relatively few men and women travel the tongue-speaking circuit. The glossolalist styles of Bennett, Bredesen, Christenson, du Plessis, Mjorud, and Stone are distinctive enough to be identifiable by observant linguists. Kildahl, The Psychology of Speaking in Tongues, (Harper & Row) 1972, pg. 53.

What the modern day tongue-speakers go through is not the baptism of the Holy Spirit as they claim, but a reality-denying learning experience. This can be seen by the instructions given by these people to their initiates:

1. Help the candidate see that the gift is already given and all he has to do is receive it.

2. Lead him to realize that anyone who is saved through baptism is prepared to receive the Spirit.

3. Tell him that when hands are laid upon him he will receive the Holy Spirit.

4. Tell the candidate he is to expect the Spirit to move on his vocal cords, but that he must cooperate with the experience as well.

5. Tell him to throw away all fear that this experience might be false.

6. Tell him to open his mouth wide and breathe as deeply as possible, at the same time telling himself that he is receiving the Spirit now. J. E. Stiles, The Gift of the Holy Spirit, page 104 (Cited by Morton T. Kelsey, Tongues Speaking, Doubleday, 1964, page 80.

Others recommend saying tongue-twisters as fast as they can and to not worry about messing up. If they jumble the words this will better enable them to launch out and speak in tongues.

In one of the worst cases I've seen, in Va. Beach, one group was offering a series of five lessons at $80 each to teach a person how to speak in tongues. Believing A Lie. As Christians, we must rely upon the word of God as our only guide and rule of faith. Anytime someone trusts in subjective human experience as their guide, they are laying their foundation on sand. Personal feelings are often misleading and sometimes even fatal.

Listen to the experiences of Dr. Kildahl: We attended many meetings where glossolalia both occurred and was interpreted and noted that the interpretations were usually of a very general nature. After a segment of tongue-speech, an interpreter commonly offered the explanation that the speaker had been thanking and praising God for many blessings. Another frequent theme was that the speaker was asking for strength and guidance for himself and for others. However, perhaps a third of the time, the interpreter offered specific interpretations of what glossolalists said. More rarely, an interpreter "translated" phrase by phrase and sentence by sentence. In order to investigate the accuracy of these interpretations, we undertook to play a taped example of tongue-speech privately for several different interpreters of tongues. In no instance was there any similarity in the several interpretations. The following typifies our results: one interpreter said the tongue-speaker was praying for health of his children; another the same tongue-speech was an expression of gratitude to God for a recently successful church fund-raising effort. When confronted with the disparity between their interpretations, the interpreters offered the explanation that God gave to one person one interpretation of speech and to another person another interpretation. They showed no defensiveness about being cross-examined and generously upheld alternative interpretations as equally valid.

We know of a man who was raised in Africa, the son of missionary parents, who decided -- rather cynically perhaps -- to test the interpretation of tongues. At the appropriate moment he rose and spoke the Lord's Prayer in the African dialect he had learned in his youth. When he sat down, an interpreter of tongues at once offered the meaning of what he said. He interpreted it as a message about the imminent second coming of Christ. John Kildahl, The Psychology of Speaking in Tongues, (Harper & Row) 1972, pages 62- 63. The Bible is clear in its warning to Christians concerning the many false teachers in the world. Many will be eternally lost who thought they had prophesied, cast out demons, and done many mighty works (i.e., tongue-speaking, etc.) in the name of Jesus (Matt. 7:22-23).

Conclusion - The purpose of the miracles were to confirm what was revealed to the Apostles. If new revelation is still being made by the Holy Spirit today and if He is still bestowing the gift of tongues as evidence of it, then the Holy Spirit did not reveal all truth to the apostles in the First Century as Jesus said He would (John 16:13). If the Holy Spirit did not reveal all truth, then Jesus lied to His apostles. If Jesus lied to His apostles, then He was not the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6); neither was He the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:16). We can see, then, that the Pentecostals' doctrine carries with it a totally unacceptable conclusion.

The ecstatic utterances of modern day tongue-speakers are regularly manifested among Buddhists, Hindus, Mormons, Moslems, Shintoists, Spirits, and voodoo devotees. Tongue-speaking has also been reported by those under the influence of LSD. The Pentecostal experience is not unique. It proves nothing except it is part of these other deceptions. Other religions claim to speak in tongues through spiritual influence. Maybe not all Pentecostals are just making it up. Maybe, in giving themselves over to spiritual influences they have help in their tongue speaking. Whatever spirit may be helping them, we must remember that the Holy Spirit caused men to speak in languages they had not studied.

God tells us to: Ephesians 4:14 henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.

Even in the Early Centuries, Men Understood That the Miracles Had Ceased. But the men of the present day, if they were all collected in one place, would not be able, with infinite prayers and tears, to do the wonders that once were done by the handkerchief of St. Paul. [Acts 19:12] John Chrysostom, On the Priesthood (370 A.D.) Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, vol. 9, pg. 67.

On 1 Cor. 12:1-2 This whole place is very obscure: but the obscurity is produced by our ignorance of the facts referred to and by their cessation, being such as then used to occur but now no longer take place. John Chrysostom, Homilies on First Corinthians (381-398 A.D.) Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, vol. 12, pg. 168.

For in truth the Church was a heaven then, the Spirit governing all things, and moving each one of the rulers and making him inspired. But now we retain only the symbols of those gifts. For now also we speak two or three, and in turn, and when one is silent, another begins. But these are only signs and memorials of those things. Wherefore when we begin to speak, the people respond, "with thy Spirit," indicating that of old they thus used to speak, not of their own wisdom, but moved by the Spirit. But not so now. John Chrysostom, Homilies on First Corinthians (381-398 A.D.) Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, vol. 12.

In the earliest times, "the Holy Ghost fell upon them that believed: and they spake with tongues," which they had not learned, "as the Spirit gave them utterance." These were signs adapted to the time. For there behooved to be that betokening of the Holy Spirit in all tongues, to show that the Gospel of God was to run through all tongues over the whole earth. That thing was done for a betokening, and it passed away... If then the witness of the presence of the Holy Ghost be not now given through these miracles, by what is it given, by what does one get to know that he has received the Holy Ghost? Let him question his own heart. If he love his brother, the Spirit of God dwells in him. Augustine, Epistle of John, 416 A.D. Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, vol. 7, pg. 497- 498. We have the completed revelation of God. Ephesians 3:1-5 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles -- 2 if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, 3 how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, 4 by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), 5 which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets:

We have the completed revelation. We can either accept it or reject it. Luke 16:31 But he said to him, 'If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.' "