And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as
the Spirit gave them utterance.
Over the past century the subject of "other tongues"
has become one of the most widely discussed and hotly debated issues in the church of
Jesus Christ. Many are convinced that a genuine revival of New Testament gifts of the
Spirit is taking place, while others are just as convinced that the whole thing is of the
devil. A good number of sincere evangelical Christians are just confused: their Bible and
their pastor seem to contradict one another; they want very much to enter into the
fullness of the Spirit, but they do not want to be deceived. They see a lot of things in
the "charismatic" churches that really impress them, but they also see some
things that are disturbing to some degree. (And, of course, wild stories from
"reliable" sources are flying around so thickly that it's almost impossible to
sort out fact from fiction.)
It is not my purpose -- neither is it possible -- to sort out
all of the arguments in this little article, and as for the stories, I will not even stoop
to discussing some of the insane charges that have been brought against Spirit-filled
believers. What we will try to do here is answer some of the legitimate questions that
have been raised by people who are really searching for the truth.
Many people can agree in principle to being filled with the
Holy Spirit and even to some of the gifts of the Spirit, such as healing. But they balk at
the idea of tongues because of their upbringing, and because it just doesn't seem to make
sense to them that God would want everybody to speak in tongues. The following are the
seven most often asked questions on the subject...
Question #1. Is The Baptism In The
Holy Spirit And The Gift Of Tongues For Us Today? Peter answers this very
simply in Acts 2:38,39. "Repent and be baptized... and ye shall receive the gift
of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are
afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call."
There is no evidence here of any exclusiveness at all
regarding the promise of the Holy Spirit. It doesn't matter what age you live in or what
race you are of -- the promise is to everybody who has become a genuine believer in the
Lord Jesus Christ through repentance and faith. The baptism in the Holy Spirit is for the
early church, their believing children, and to all those generations who are afar off. And
remember that Peter is speaking in the immediate context of the upper room and the gift of
tongues that was being manifested on that day. It is not unreasonable to assume he meant
the whole package. But more on that later...
Question #2. Doesn't The Bible Say
That Tongues Will Pass Away? I Corinthians 13:8 says "whether
there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether
there be knowledge, it shall vanish away." Many opponents of the modern
Pentecostal/charismatic movement have used this verse to support their claim that the gift
of tongues was a temporary phenomenon, to be used only by the early church. What they
conveniently ignore is that the same verse says that prophecies shall fail, and knowledge
shall vanish away. Yet we still study prophecy and we still seek the knowledge of the
Lord, don't we? We must be consistent in our interpretation of the Bible, or we undermine
our own positions.
What does this passage mean? Read the context to find out.
Tongues, prophecy, and human knowledge will indeed cease, but when? "When that
which is perfect comes," that is, when we are perfected and no longer need
spiritual gifts (vs. 10). Tongues will cease when we see Christ "face to
face," and when we "know as we are known," and no longer need to
communicate on the level we now do (vs. 12). Even faith shall cease, for we shall see Him
as He is; and hope, for all our hopes will be realized at the resurrection. In the
meantime, however I'll hang on to all of these graces of the Lord, including tongues (vs.
Question #3. Doesn't The Bible Encourage
Us To Have Love, Instead Of Spiritual Gifts? I Corinthians 12:31 says, "covet
earnestly the best gifts; and yet show I unto you a more excellent way," and then
goes on to speak of love throughout chapter thirteen. Paul concludes this discussion in
14:1 by saying, "follow after love and desire spiritual gifts."
I don't see that this is an either/or proposition at all. Paul
exhorts the Corinthians to earnestly desire the gifts of the Spirit, but cautions them to
operate in love, not in pride or self-exaltation, because they are gifted. We are to have
both love and gifts, not choose between them. Both proceed from our God. Let's not despise
any of His freely given graces, but let's receive them and use them in the proper spirit.
Question #4. Don't Some People Have
Other Gifts Instead Of Tongues? I Corinthians 12:30 appears to suggest that. It
says, "Have all the gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all
interpret?" The context here is ministries in the church, and Paul mentions
tongues along with apostles, prophets, teachers, etc. (see verses 28 and 29). Obviously,
every believer is not called to be an apostle, and neither is every Christian called to a
public ministry of tongues and interpretation.
Private devotional use of tongues is an entirely different
case, however. In I Corinthians 14:5 the apostle says, "I would that ye all spake
with tongues" or "I want you all to speak with tongues" (RSV).
Jude tells his readers to be "building up yourselves on your most holy faith,
praying in the Holy Ghost." In Acts 2:4. 10:44, and 19:6, the Bible records that all
of the believers spoke in tongues when the Holy Spirit came upon them. This was the norm
in the early church. Everybody spoke in tongues, but not everybody was called to minister
that gift publicly. The great majority were instructed to speak to themselves and to God,
for personal edification (I Cor. 14:4,28).
Question #5. Does A Person Have To Speak
In Tongues To Have The Baptism In The Holy Spirit? This question is a lot like
the last one. We believe, according to the scriptural precedent, that if you're baptized
in the Holy Spirit you will speak in tongues. This may not seem like the smartest thing
for God to be doing, according to some people's way of thinking; but it's the way He did
it in the book of Acts, and it's the way it's still happening today.
And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to
speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost
came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.
And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished...
because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they
heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God.
The last scripture is especially interesting. The Jews knew
that the Gentiles had received the gift of the Holy Ghost. How? "For they heard
them speak with tongues, and magnify God." They apparently regarded tongues as
In Acts nineteen, the Ephesian disciples were already
believers in Jesus Christ. Paul didn't ask them if they knew about Jesus, but he did ask
them, "Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?" When they
indicated that they hadn't, he laid hands on them and they spoke in tongues--and some even
prophesied. Paul was then satisfied that they had received the baptism in the Holy Ghost.
In Acts 8:17 no specific mention of tongues is made in
reference to the Samaritans' baptism in the Spirit. However, Simon the sorcerer saw some
visible manifestation that the Holy Ghost had indeed come, for he immediately offered
money for the ability to call down such power. He couldn't have seen the fruit of love or
holiness in the people's lives -- there wasn't time. A quick survey of similar incidents
in the Bible tells us he probably saw them speaking in new tongues.
We can conclude then, that the gift of tongues is the initial
evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. You may experience the anointing of the
Spirit, and be used of God in many ways without speaking in tongues, just as men of God in
the Old Testament did. The "baptism" in the Holy Spirit, however, as exemplified
in the Acts of the Apostles, will be accompanied by this utterance gift. It's a brand-New
Testament gift ordained of God to initiate the brand-New Testament dispensation of the
Spirit, prophesied by Joel hundreds of years earlier. And, praise God, it's still around
Question #6. Is Every Utterance In
Tongues Supposed To Be Interpreted? The answer to this is found in I
Corinthians fourteen. This is the chapter that teaches the proper use of the utterance
gifts -- you should read it in its entirety.
Tongues should be strictly governed in the public church
service. "If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most
by three, and that by course; and let one interpret" (I Cor. 14:27). Likewise, in
reference to the public service and the edification of others, Paul says in verse
thirteen, "let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may
Private devotional use, however, sees the gift in an entirely
different context. You're not worried about other people stumbling, or understanding,
because you're alone. You're speaking "mysteries," and you're speaking "not
unto men, but unto God" (verse 2). Verse 28 suggests that not all Spirit-baptized
believers have the gift of interpretation, but it encourages them to speak in tongues to
One of the chief purposes of tongues seems to be to allow our
spirit, with the Holy Spirit, to pray at a level that goes beyond our natural
understanding (see I Cor. 14:14, and Rom. 8:26). It would defeat the purpose if you had to
interpret everything, thus bringing it back to the realm of intellectual understanding.
Sometimes, of course, the Lord would wish you to interpret even in your private devotions,
but generally this would not be the case.
Question #7. Is It Possible To Get A
False Gift Of Tongues? One prominent evangelical preacher has caused many
young Christians untold confusion by suggesting that tongues can be produced by
"psychological influence," and even "satanic influence," as well as by
the Holy Spirit. He cites the testimony of a "recently converted street fighter"
to substantiate his conclusions. It's unfortunate that he didn't turn to the Bible
instead, before making such serious implications
The Word of God, in fact, speaks with certainty--and
comfort--on the subject...
If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father,
will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or
if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to
give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy
Spirit to them that ask him?
Serpents and scorpions are symbolic of demons in the Bible.
Jesus is making a special point of saying, "If you ask for the Holy Spirit you'll get
the genuine article, not a counterfeit!" He then proceeds in the same chapter to
denounce those who attribute the works of the Holy Spirit to Satan and Beelzebub. You
needn't fear on this point, brethren. Your Heavenly Father isn't going to let you
innocently stumble into a false gift while earnestly seeking a deeper walk with Him. He
has promised you safety in His Word.
It's also not very likely that you could make up your own
tongue. You never could before, so what makes you think you can now? Surely, the God who
can keep you from satanic deception can surely keep you from self-deception, if you're
humble and sincere before Him.
Experience and observation has shown us that those who speak
in tongues generally manifest the fruit of the Spirit in every other way, too. They
evidence a new liberty and joy, a quicker understanding of spiritual truths, and a greater
zeal for the Lord. (This is not to say that they're perfect overnight; but the change is
noticeable.) Like many young Christians, I had some doubts about the validity of my own
tongue--until an older brother began to point out all of the other fruit in my life since
I had been baptized in the Holy Spirit.
Today, I rejoice in the powerful and beautiful Christian life
I'm able to live because of the infilling of the Spirit of God. And today, as in the first
century church, the gift of tongues is very much a part of that experience. I hope you
won't balk at what God has for you, but take a step of faith and enter into the fullness
of the Spirit.
Scripture references taken from the King James version of the Holy Bible
Copyright © 1998 Kim
Harrington, Masterbuilder Ministries. All rights reserved.