Thursday, November 15, 2007

Speaking In Tongues

Originally published on Friday, February 10, and Sunday, February 12, 2006

Speaking in tongues

“It would be an arbitrary and strange interpretation of Scripture that would make tongues-speaking in the New Testament anything other than known languages. There is no trace of Scriptural evidence that tongues were ever heard by anyone as incoherent, incomprehensible babbling.”-Lehman Strauss, “Speaking In Tongues”

“All these things being true, it is not difficult to see why God would use the speaking in tongues to express the greatest, most wonderful experience that mortal man could receive. In the baptism of the Holy Ghost, His Spirit and yours become one. He uses your tongue and voice to express it. It is a wonder of wonders, chosen not by man, but by God, the sovereign ruler of the universe. Why be found fighting against Him? Believe His Word, accept what He says and you too can receive the baptism of the Holy Ghost.”-Fred E. Kinzie, “Why Did God Choose Tongues?”

“Finally, I must conclude that I am convinced both biblically and experientially that when people receive the Holy Spirit they do indeed speak with other tongues. Now it is not tongues that we should seek for. As I heard one preacher say, "You don’t go to a shoe store and buy tongues. You buy shoes and the tongues come with the shoes." So it is with the Holy Spirit. We should seek to be filled with the Spirit and when we are we will speak with other tongues.”-William Arnold III, “Why I Speak In Tongues”

“Some gifts were intended to be temporary. I Corinthians 13:8—“where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.” Notice tongues is associated with prophecy and knowledge. They always go together. These three gifts were given for the introductory stage of the church until the complete revelation of God was given. We now have that revelation in the Bible and we have no reason to expect any new revelation. Since there is no new gospel truth, there is no need for these gifts.”-Randy Childress, “Why I Don’t Speak In Tongues”

Interesting. One says that tongues are for today, one says they aren’t. They both turn towards the Bible to buttress their claims. The "cessationist" says that speaking in tongues means speaking in an actual language that someone understands. The miracle of different languages was needed in the beginning for the furtherance of the gospel, and was meant for the apostles to found the church. Once they died, tongues disappeared. Are they right? Let's see.

MARK 16:14-18
Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen. And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

The general argument against speaking in tongues usually begins by saying that the word “tongues” in the Bible means languages. It most certainly does. In this passage it may mean languages; it may mean a private prayer language. But this passage doesn’t support the claim that they were only for the apostles. Jesus in this passage makes a connection between preaching the gospel, seeing people baptized, and seeing them perform miracles. “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe….” The cessationists will argue that tongues have passed away; if they have, then why do they still baptize? Has that passed away also? Most certainly not. Yet the order here is “believes- baptized- signs.” "These signs will follow those who believe.” It isn’t saying that the signs are only for the apostles, only for the preaching of the gospel. The signs come after the gospel has been preached. They follow the belief.

ACTS 2:1-8
When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born?

This is a definite case of people speaking in actual languages. Some have suggested that the miracle here was that the crowd heard the apostles in their own language; I would differ. The passage says that they (meaning the apostles and their posse) spoke in other tongues. But that’s neither hear nor there. These people were from many nations, yet they all understood the preaching. Mark one up for the cessationists here.

ACTS 8:14-19
Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, saying, “Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”

This passage doesn’t specifically mention tongues, but let’s look at it a minute. Samaria had received the word of God and they were baptized. There wasn’t a need for a miracle to further the preaching of the gospel; it had already been preached. And Simon had already been following Phillip and conversed with the apostles; he didn’t need the use of another language to understand. So how did Simon know that the Holy Spirit had fallen? Was there some tangible sign that He had? Based upon all the passages in the book of Acts where the Holy Spirit fell, I believe that the sign was speaking in tongues that were unknown to all present.

The entirety of Acts 10 is devoted to the story of Cornelius, a centurion in an Italian regiment. He saw an angel who said that Simon Peter was coming. At the same time Peter saw a vision concerning animals that Jewish people considered unclean. A voice said “Rise, Peter; kill and eat” three times, and when Peter refused the voice said “What God has cleansed do not call common.” The message here is that Peter needed to preach to the Gentiles and not avoid them.

vv. 24-28And the following day they entered Caesarea. Now Cornelius was waiting for them, and had called together his relatives and close friends. As Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up; I myself am also a man.” And as he talked with him, he went in and found many who had come together. Then he said to them, “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.”

Notice that Peter conversed with “them”, meaning that Cornelius wasn’t the only one that spoke Peter’s language. There wasn’t a need for a language miracle to preach the Gospel, as we see in vv. 34-35:

Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.”

And vv. 36-43 are the rest of Peter’s sermon.

vv. 44-46While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God.

How did “those of the circumcision” know that the Holy Spirit had fallen upon the Gentiles? “They heard them speak with tongues and magnify God.” Remember, they all spoke the same language. I propose that the only way they knew the Holy Spirit had fallen on the Gentiles was that they were speaking in languages unknown to both the speaker and the hearer. Why? You’ll have to take it up with God.

1 Corinthians 12:4-11
There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.

1 Corinthians 12-14 give us an in-depth look at spiritual gifts, the good and the bad. Paul had just finished rebuking the Corinthians for turning the Lord's Table celebration into a drunken party. He then starts chapter 12 by saying "Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant." There are some things that need to be set straight. First, there is a diversity of gifts but one Spirit who distributes them to each one as He wills. Not everyone will have everything. the rest of the chapter is a development of that idea. "Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way." (1 Cor. 12:30-31) Now wait a minute, Paul. We aren't supposed to pursue the gifts, but the Giver. We need to seek His face, not His hand. At least that's what the latest revival websites tell me. Not everybody is going to have everything, but we are encouraged to desire the gifts nonetheless. Both times that tongues are mentioned here interpretation is right afterwards.

Paul tells us to earnestly desire the best gifts, and in 1 Corinthians 13 he tells us about the greatest gift- that of love. You've heard it at every wedding you've ever been to. Chapter 13 continues the theme of doing things in order to benefit one another.

1 Corinthians 13:8-12
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. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 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."

Ah ha!" the cessationist will declare. "Where there are tongues, they will pass away, when the perfect has come. We now have the perfect, the Bible, the Word of God." In the words of the ancient prophets, "Context, people, context!" In verse 9 Paul says "For now we know in part and we prophesy in part." In verse 12 he mentions knowing in part again. "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." He is contrasting. Before and after. Now we see dimly- then we'll see face to face. Now I know in part- then I shall know just as I am known. Has anyone here seen Jesus face to face? Sit down, Benny Hinn. The perfect isn't the Bible, it is the second coming of Christ. This chapter can't be used to "prove" the cessation of tongues.

1 Corinthians 14: 1-5
Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries. But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men. He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification. (emphasis mine)

Paul is not downplaying the gift of tongues two chapters after he just said that God gives the gift to people as He wills. I emphasized two portions to make a point. He is talking about gatherings of the church here. The person who speaks in tongues speaks not to men but to God. Huh? Wait a minute. If the gift of tongues is merely for the establishing of the church, and it means a definite known language in every instance, then why is Paul telling us that the tongues-speaker is talking to God? Doesn't God understand every language? Does God need the gospel preached to Him? Because that's why the gift of tongues was given, according to the anti-charismatic. No, Paul is saying that in the church we need to speak words of exhortation to each other. Tongues mean nothing if no one interprets.

Let's go on.

1 Corinthians 14:9-11
So likewise you, unless you utter by the tongue words easy to understand, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air. There are, it may be, so many kinds of languages in the world, and none of them is without significance. Therefore, if I do not know the meaning of the language, I shall be a foreigner to him who speaks, and he who speaks will be a foreigner to me.

Why would Paul say that unless I know the meaning of the language I shall be a foreigner to him and he shall be a foreigner to me? The whole point of the gift, according to those who rail against the gift today, is that the speaker will be understood by the hearer. Just like the 2nd chapter of Acts. Unless... there are two types of the gift of tongues that are being spoken of in these passages- one unknown that is being spoken to God, and one along the lines of the beginning of the church, where people spoke in tongues to further the gospel.

1 Corinthians 14:13-19
Therefore let him who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding. Otherwise, if you bless with the spirit, how will he who occupies the place of the uninformed say "Amen" at your giving of thanks, since he does not understand what you say? For you indeed give thanks well, but the other is not edified. I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all; yet in the church I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I may teach others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue. (emphasis mine)

Paul isn't teaching either/or, he teaching both/and, with the caveat that if you are in the church you had better be understood. Paul said that he speaks in tongues more than all of the Corinthians believers he was writing to, but in the church he would rather speak words he understands. So if he is speaking words of understanding in the church, where is he speaking in tongues? He uses the phrase "pray in a tongue." If the gift of tongues was a special miracle for the preaching of the gospel in known languages, why would people be praying in tongues. And yet here is Paul telling the Corinthians to pray in the spirit and pray with the understanding.

So let's mop up here. I think I've made a good case that the Bible talks about two different types of tongues- prayer tongues and Book-of-Acts preaching tongues. Yet even the person who is following me up to this point might say "Sure, they had tongues back then, but they passed away with the last apostle." Really? How do you draw that conclusion? Because the Scripture was completed then and the "perfect" had come? I shot that down earlier in the essay. Because they radically faded off in importance as church history progressed? Things have faded and regained prominence in church history that people don't say need to be buried. How many people had Bibles and read them for 1500 years of church history? Tongues may have been slim to none and slim has left town, but that doesn't mean that they have passed away. That's letting experience dictate your interpretation of the Scripture. Hmm... where have I heard that argument before? From the cessationist's very own lips. They will say that the charismatic/Pentecostal believer is interpreting Scripture by their own experience when that person prays in tongues and says it's God; but aren't they doing the very same thing when they see someone obviously faking tongues and they say none of it is from God?

Listen. I have been around the block and seen some wacky things. Just read the archives to find out more. I know that there are people out there who are not praying in tongues but trying to ascend the ladder of prominence in their church. But even if there isn't one genuine instance of speaking in tongues to be found in the world today, that doesn't mean that the gift has passed away. Now your theological system may say that they have; but Scripture says no such thing.

At the same time, if someone isn't interested in speaking in tongues, that's cool. They just have another gift is all. So Phil Johnson, John MacArthur, Dallas Theological Seminary- lighten up. I like your writings, you obviously are intelligent and well-educated, but in this area you need to relax.


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