THE GIFT OF TONGUES Copyright by Norman L. Geisler 2006 THE GIFT OF TONGUES: What Does the Bible Say About It? 1. TONGUES WERE A REAL LANGUAGE (ACTS 2:2-6). • “Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Now there were staying in Jerusalem Godfearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language.” Acts 10 Was also a Real Language • “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God” (Acts 10:44-46). • “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning” (Acts 11:15). . “And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied” (Acts 19:6). 1Corinthains was a real language • 1. 1Corinthians was of the same same time period as Acts 19 which was a real language as Acts 2 and 10. • 2. It could be interpreted (1Cor. 14:27). • 3. It is listed with real “languages in the world” (1C. 14:10). • 4. Paul speaks of “the meaning of the language” (1Cor. 14:11). • 5. The “mysteries” (1Cor. 14:2) spoken to one’s self could be expressed in a real language (Eph. 3:3). • 6. “Tongues of angels” (1Cor. 13:1) is a figure of speech for eloquence. Angels always spoke in a real language (cf. Gen. 18; Judges 13; Mat. 1; Luke 2). • 7. It only sounded like babble to those who did not understand the language (1 Cor. 14:23). 2. ONLY SOME NT BELIEVERS SPOKE IN TONGUES (1COR. 12:30). • “Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? [No]” (1Cor. 12:29-30). • Note: • 1. In Greek each question demands a negative answer. • 2. God only intended some to be apostles. • 3. God intended only some to speak in tongues since he only gave the gift to some. Why Did Paul Say He Wished All Would Speak in Tongues? • “I wish you all spoke with tongues...(1Cor. 14:5). • Response: This is a strong figure of speech expressing an unfulfillable wish just as he said-- • “For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race…” (Rom. 9:3). • Only some were appointed as apostles, and others could not become an apostle no matter how hard they wished. Likewise, only some could speak in tongues no matter how strongly they desired. 3. Only Apostles Spoke in Tongues at Pentecost • A. Only Apostles Received the Gift of Tongues • B. Only Apostles Gave the Gift of Tongues A. Only Apostles Received the Gift of Tongues • Acts 1:1: In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen.... He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. 4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” 6 So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. • 10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” 12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city. 13 When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. 14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.... (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty)…. 22. One of these must must become a witness with us of His resurrection. 23. Hey proposed two: Joseph…and Matthias. 24 Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen 25 to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” 26 Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles. 2:1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. 5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Are not all these men who speak Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language?… 13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.” 14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: ...“15 These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 3. Only Apostles Spoke in Tongues at Pentecost A. Only Apostles Received the Gift of Tongues 1. Only apostles were promised the gift (Acts 1:8). – – 2. The antecedent of “they” who received it (2:1) were apostles (1:25). 3. Those who spoke were “Men of Galilee” (1:11 cf. 2:7), not the women who were present (1:14). – 4. The “they” is a masculine pronoun referring only to men. – – 5. The crowd criticized the same “they” as drunk (2:13). 6. Peter defended “these” criticized as the “eleven” apostles with him who had spoken in tongues (2:14). B. Only Apostles Gave the Gift of Tongues B. Only Apostles Could Give the Gift of Tongues • 1. All instance of getting the Holy Spirit and tongues in Acts after the day of Pentecost were by the apostles (Acts 8,10, 19). • 2. The Holy Spirit was only given by the hands of the apostles: “Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given…” (Acts 8:18 cf. Acts 19:6). • 3. Paul refers elsewhere to an apostle’s ability to give spiritual gifts (2 Tim. 1:4; Rom. 1:11). • 4. It was a special “sign of an apostle” (2 Cor. 12:12; Acts 2:43;14:3) which non-apostles didn’t have the ability to give. • 5. The church was built on the apostles who had special gifts to prove their authority (Eph. 2:20; Acts 2:43;5:12; Heb. 2:3-4). – – – – – a. b. c. d. e. The Apostle Peter had the keys to the kingdom (Mt. 16:19). The Apostles had the power to heal all sickness (Mt. 10:8; Acts 28:8-9). They could raise the dead (Mt. 10:8; Acts 20:9-10). Pronounce capital judgment on those who lied to God (Acts 5:9). They could give the Holy Spirit and tongues (Acts 8:18-19). 4. ONLY 2 OR 3 WERE TO SPEAK IN ONE SERVICE (I COR. 14:27). • “If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time....” • Note: • 1. Only three at the most could speak. • 2. Only one at a time could speak. 5. TONGUES HAD TO BE INTERPRETED (I COR. 14:27) • “If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret.” • Note: God is more interested in our knowing the truth than in our feeling a blessing. 6. TONGUES WERE A LESSER GIFT (I COR. 12:28). • “And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and [last] those speaking in different kinds of tongues.” • Prophecy is better than tongues: • “He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church (1Cor. 14:4). 7. IT IS BETTER TO SPEAK IN A KNOWN LANGUAGE (I COR. 14:19). • “But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.” • Note: Saying “Jesus died for our sins” in English is better than a whole sermon in tongues. 8. THE BETTER GIFTS SHOULD BE SOUGHT, NOT TONGUES • “But eagerly desire the greater gifts” (1Cor. 12:31). But tongues was a lesser gift (1Cor. 12:28). • And speaking in a known language is better than in tongues (1Cor. 14:19). • Note: Why did Paul say “Forbid not to speak in tongues” (1 Cor 14:39)? • Because some had the gift at that time. • But this does not mean the gift still exist? • The gift of apostle once existed but no longer does. 9. ONE SHOULD PRAY WITH HIS UNDERSTANDING (I COR. 14:14-15). • “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind.” • Note: Don’t pray with your heart what your mind does not understand. 10. ONE SHOULD NOT UTTER THE UNUTTERABLE (Rom. 8:26) • “We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” • Note: • 1. The Holy Spirit is expressing to God our feelings that are too deep for words. • 2. When we try to utter the unutterable it comes out as unintelligible. – a. This is not a real language, as tongues were. – b. It is like spiritual stuttering. It is baby talk. 11. THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT (LOVE) IS BETTER THAN THE GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT (I COR. 12:31-13:1,13). • “And now I will show you the most excellent way. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal…. But the greatest of these is love.” 12. TONGUES WERE A SIGN TO UNBELIEVERS, NOT TO BELIEVERS (I COR. 14:22). • “Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is for believers, not for unbelievers.” • Note: Tongues were a sign (miracle) to unbelievers that this new event was of God, since they could hear it in their own tongue (Acts 2:2-6 and 1Cor. 14:21). 13. Sign Gifts (like Tongues) Were Limited to the First Century • 1. Tongues were a sign gift (1Cor. 14:22). • 2. They were a special sign of an apostle (Acts 5:12; 8:18; 2Cor.12:12; Heb. 2:3-4). • 3. Apostles lived only in the first century (Acts 1:22; 1Cor. 9:1). • 4. Tongues aren’t mentioned in later gift lists in the NT (cf. Rom. 12:6-8; Eph. 4:11). • 5. Apostles were the foundation of the Church (Eph. 2:20; Acts 2:42) which only had to be laid once. • 6. It is no more necessary to repeat Pentecost today than it is to repeat Calvary. 14. Paul Said Tongues Will Cease • 1 Cor. 13:8: “Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.... 12 For Now we see in a mirror dimly; but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.” • Note: • 1. The “perfect” refers to heaven, not to the Bible, as is clear from the “now...then” contrast (v. 12). • 2. Tongues will cease in this life; there will be none in heaven. • 3. They will cease when special revelation ceases (special revealed knowledge and prophecies--v. 8 cf. 2:6-16). • 4. All sections of Christendom believe revelation ceased with the apostles. Hence, so did the gift of tongues cease with them. How Do We Explain Today’s Tongues? • Problem: Tongues exist today. What are they? • Response: We must interpret our experience by the Bible, not the Bible by our experience. • 1. They are not supernatural – a. The general phenomenon is not a real language. – b. They can be learned, but miracles can’t be learned. – c. They are exercised by Pagan religions which can’t be of God. • 2. Some are demonic (cf. 1 Cor. 12:3; 1 Jn. 4:1-6). • 3. Many are a sincere but unbiblical attempt to express the inexpressible (Rom. 8:26). Charismatic Pastor Tells Story Pastor Babcox served the Charismatic Word of Life Church in Carbondale, Illinois and led campus ministry at Southern Illinois University. Charismatic Pastor Speaks Out • How He Came to Speak in Tongues • “Despite the fact that I had found my assurance in Christ, I still felt there was something missing: I didn’t speak in tongues as everybody else did…. And so I prayed. “O God, I want everything you have to give me. I want to be filled with your Holy Spirit. I want to praise you in a new language. Please hear my prayer.” But the heavens were brass…. The people prayed but nothing happened. “Please, God, please,” I thought. They continued to pray, but still noting happened.” • Finally, one brother spoke up.“Neil, God loves you, but you have to speak out. You must initiate it. Begin to utter something now or you’ll never receive it.” I hung my head in shame. Hot tears began to stream down my cheeks. “Okay,” I sobbed. “this is it.” And with trembling lips I managed to choke out a few incomprehensible syllables. “That’s it, Neil. You’ve got it!” At first I was somewhat uneasy about the experience. But as I walked home and tried to speak in tongues again, I found that I could do so much more fluently…. Speaking in tongues was a very rewarding experience for me. Every day I spent a large portion of my prayer time speaking in tongues” (SCR, 21-22). • How He Began to Question the Practice • “Yes, it was all very romantic. But gradually, what had started as a romantic venture, an idealistic quest for spiritual gifts, was slowly, imperceptibly changing into what, I wasn’t sure. All I knew was that the excitement and romance of prophesying was turned into an uneasy sense that the prophecies I heard, including my own, were hardly worthy of the name. The idea that they were the words of the living God was beginning to seem painfully ludicrous…. In my case, there were four simple words that played a decisive role in changing my heart: thus saith the Lord…. When a prophet said “thus saith the Lord,” he meant the very word of God was being proclaimed and that as such it was invested with divine authority” (SCR, 52, 53). • “Thus saith the Lord. What abuses I have seen of those words. What bitter fruit I have seen borne by men and women speaking those words. I have seen people married on the basis of guidance received from personal prophecies only to be divorced a week later because of a terrible scandal. Many lives have been harmed by such prophetic guidance” (SCR, 57). • I had to be completely honest with myself about this, because it is so easy to rationalize an experience in which one has invested a great deal of emotional energy…. Finally, I admitted it to myself. The truth is there was nothing miraculous about this “gift” of mine • --I learned to speak in tongues. Here was no sign to marvel at. I had attained fluency in my tongues speech through practice, not by the sudden power of the Holy Spirit” (SCR, 64-65). The Bottom Line • Today’s tongue speaking is not what occurred in the New Testament because: • 1. It is not a real knowable language. • • • • • • 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. It is not supernatural; it is learned. It is not without error, God can’t err. It is the same as what Pagans do. It often violates many biblical rules. NT tongues were a sign of an apostle, but there are no apostles today (Acts 1:22). 7. The real sign of the Holy Spirit is the fruit of the Spirit (love), not the gift of the Spirit (tongues). What is the Sign of Being Filled with the Holy Spirit? • “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord” (Eph. 5:18-19). • “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God” (Col. 3:16). Conclusion • 1. The fruit of the Spirit (love) is more important than the gifts of the Spirit. • 2. It is better to speak five words in a known tongue than 10,000 in an unknown tongue. • 3. We should concentrate on speaking in a controlled tongue rather than in an uncontrolled tongue. • “All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (Jas. 3:7-8). Gossip is an Uncontrolled Tongue • Prov. 20:19--“A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid a man who talks too much.” Rom. 1:29--“They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips….” • 2Cor. 12:20--“I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder. • 1Tim. 3:11--“In the same way, their wives are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers (gossips) but temperate and trustworthy in everything” • • • • • 1Tim. 5:13--“Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying things they ought not to.” 2Tim. 3:3--“They are “without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good….” Titus 2:3-- “Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.” We need to control the one tongue we have before we seek more tongues! It is not how many tongues we have but how we use the tongue we have!