13 truths about speaking with tongues

holy_ghost
1. Tongues are (or were) real languages not gibberish.

2. Speaking with tongues (i.e. miraculously  speaking in a foreign language) was not meant to benefit believers, but to serve as a sign to persuade unbelievers.

3.The spiritual gift of tongues does not empower believers to speak an angelic language

4. The spiritual gift of tongues does not empower believers to speak a mysterious language.

5. “Praying in the spirit” or “praying in the Holy Ghost” is not a command to pray with tongues.

6. Paul criticizes, ridicules and discourages the practice of praying in tongues (without the gift of interpretation).

7. Speaking in tongues is useless unless there is an interpretation.

8. Not all believers are granted the gift of speaking with tongues.

9. God issues the command to be quiet in the church unless it is possible for the tongues to be understood (interpreted).

10. Since God is not the Author of confusion, speaking with tongues in church without providing a valid interpretation is not from God.

11. If tongues are spoken in the church, it should only be done by one person at a time, and then by no more than three persons in total. Therefore, a church collectively speaking in tongues is madness.

12. Women are not permitted to speak tongues in the church.

13. Tongues and other spiritual gifts will eventually cease.


1. Tongues are (or were) real languages not gibberish. See Acts 2:4-11 & 1 Corinthians 14:21-22

The words lâshôn [H3956] in the Hebrew and glōssa [G1100] in the Greek, literally refer to the tongue; a member of the body and the organ of speech located in the mouth. However, to lexicons of both the Old and New Testaments of the bible, this word tongue is figuratively used to refer to any “language or dialect used by a particular people distinct from that of other nations.”¹ In fact, the English words gloss and glossary are both derived from their cognate glōssa. Therefore, when the bible employs the word tongue to refer to the spiritual gift granted by the Holy Spirit to believers, it is the gift of speaking a foreign language that is in scope.

Nevertheless, among Charismatic believers, it is quite common to hear adherents equate the practice of spontaneously speaking gibberish with the promised spiritual gift of tongues referred to in the Scriptures (i.e. Mark 16:17). Yet, according to the bible, the spiritual gift of tongues involved real languages that were already in use. In fact, according to Acts 2:4-11, the inaugural use of tongues involved a group of Galileans who by the power of the Holy Spirit were moved to miraculously speak in many preexisting languages. For in Acts 2:4-11 we read:

And they [i.e. the 120 believers of Acts 1:15] were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God. (Acts 2:4-11)

That devout Jews from “out of every nation under heaven” would meet in Jerusalem on Shavuot (i.e. the day of Pentecost or the Feast of Weeks) is nothing remarkable since the Law required that day’s commemoration (Exodus 34:22, Deuteronomy 16:10) and that it occur in Jerusalem (Deuteronomy 16:16, John 4:20). Therefore, the reason there were Jews from all over the world in Jerusalem at this particular time of the year was because of the pilgrimage feast day of Shavout. Incidentally, Acts 2:4-11 is the only passage in the entire bible that actually describes the gift of tongues in operation. This initial and definitive account of tongues is also significant because the meaning of any word is ultimately tied up with its first use. In fact, if you want to understand the meaning of anything, you must first examine its origin. Therefore, as Acts 2:4-11 lists over 13 different foreign languages, it should be clearly understood from this account of the first time ever that tongues were spoken, that tongues were not merely gibberish but were actual meaningful words from foreign languages. It is for this reason that Paul in 1 Corinthians 14:21-22, states:

In the law it is written, With [another tongue]³ and [strange]² lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord. Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe.

Paul quotes Isaiah 28:11-12 4 which says “For with [foreign]² lips and another tongue will he speak to this people…yet they would not hear.” in order to demonstrate that not only were tongues actual foreign languages, but they were also meant to persuade unbelievers.

Regarding Isaiah 28:11-12, Dr. Henry Morris states:

This verse is quoted in 1 Corinthians 14:21 in support of Paul’s teaching that the gift of tongues — the ability to speak in a language one had never learned — was as a sign or miracle to unbelievers, not for the personal edification of the one speaking. Just as the Israelites had required another tongue to convince them of their responsibility before God, so God gave the gift of languages at Pentecost, so that all the foreigners there could supernaturally hear the gospel in their own tongues (Act 2:7-11).

2. Speaking with tongues (i.e. miraculously  speaking in a foreign language) was not meant to benefit believers, but to serve as a sign to persuade unbelievers.  See 1 Corinthians 14:21-23.

In the law it is written, With [another tongue]³ and [strange]² lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord. Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe. If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad? – 1 Corinthians 14:21-23

The bible tells us that the purpose of tongues was/is to serve as a miracle or a sign to unbelievers. As such, 1 Corinthians 14 argues that it is useless to speak with tongues if there is no interpreter available. This runs counter to the typical Charismatic understanding of tongue-speaking which seeks to encourage all believers to utter gibberish, even when there is no obvious interpretation/interpreter available. Yet, Paul says that if the whole church engages in tongue-speaking, observers will rightly conclude that the church’s congregants are crazy—a conclusion which is counterproductive to persuading unbelievers which is the whole purpose of tongues. In fact, one is only making matters worse by supposing that instead of (or in addition to) a foreign language, uttering gibberish is a valid manifestation of speaking with tongues. After all, how can tongues serve as a sign or miracle to unbelievers if the unbeliever can’t even discern that one is speaking in a foreign language? Furthermore, there is nothing at all miraculous or significant about speaking gibberish since anyone can do so.

Could one man’s gibberish be another man’s language?

The exploit that astonished the Jewish pilgrim onlookers in Acts 2:4-11 was that native Galilaeans were preaching in unfamiliar and unstudied foreign languages, not in gibberish! Based upon the response of some of these Jewish foreigners (Acts 2:11) it is apparent that they were moved by the godly message which they heard in their own languages. Yet, in fulfillment of the Isaiah 28:11-12 prophecy 4 concerning tongues, Act 2:12-13 informs us that there were those who though amazed, nevertheless doubted, while others mocked in unbelief. Coincidentally, in 1 Corinthians 14:22 Paul anticipates that unequipped listeners approaching a congregation of tongues-speakers would also conclude that they were out of their minds.

Of those unbelievers who mocked the tongues-speakers in Acts 2:13, perhaps some of them were also native Galilaeans who didn’t understand the languages being uttered and thought that these disciples were merely drunkards babbling gibberish. If so, wouldn’t this reaction by the Galilaean mockers serve to corroborate those Charismatics who would argue that their own spoken gibberish is really an obscure language being misunderstood by unequipped listeners? According to recent statistics from the Summer Institute of Linguistics, there are 7,105 languages that are either spoken or signed all over the world. Could the gibberish-sounding tongues of a Charismatic believer really be an obscure language? Perhaps, but then that just means that any unequipped hearer who doesn’t understand what is going on can’t be edified by the tongues; and if so, then this is problematic because when it comes to speaking with tongues, the edification of the unbelieving hearer is all that really matters (1 Corinthians 14:22).

Can tongues provide self-edification?

Some Charismatics argue that in 1 Corinthians 14:4, Paul encourages speaking with tongues in order to accomplish self-edification. But according to 1 Corinthians 14:14, this apprehension of 1 Corinthians 14:4 can only be true if the person speaking with tongues also has the gift of interpretation; otherwise, we are told in the same verse that such an endeavor ends up being unfruitful. In fact, even if the person speaking with tongues could also interpret his or her own utterances, this self-edification would still appear to be a misuse of tongues since 1 Corinthians 14:21 suggests that tongues are not meant to serve those who already believe. In 1 Corinthians 14:5,27 Paul seems to leave open the possibility that tongues interpreted by the speaker or another translator could still provide edification to the church but he does so against the backdrop of a chapter which seeks to convince the reader that tongues were not designed to be used as a tool for church edification (1 Corinthians 14:19). Therefore, we see that the gift of tongues was purposefully and primarily given by the Holy Spirit in order to persuade unbelievers.

3. The spiritual gift of tongues does not empower believers to speak an angelic language. 

Growing up, I was taught by my Charismatic mother that to speak in tongues was to employ a spiritual language that would confound the devil and prevent him from eavesdropping on my prayers. This advice implies that one of Satan’s deeds is to secretly gather information relayed through prayer in order to use it against believers. Yet, nowhere in the bible are we told that the devil can eavesdrop on the prayers of the world’s believers or that tongues are a spiritual and thus heavenly language. Still, this belief persists today and is held by many Charismatic believers worldwide. In fact, many Charismatics often proclaim that the spiritual gift of tongues is actually the language of angels, and they do so by using 1 Corinthians 13:1 as their sole proof-text. Yet, when we turn to that particular verse of Scripture, all that we find is Paul saying:

1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)

After reading the first three verses of 1 Corinthians 13, one thing becomes immediately obvious: Paul is speaking hyperbolically and thus hypothetically! It could not (or perhaps should not) be said of any mere man that he can “understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and [that he has] all faith.” These attributes are to wonderful to ascribe to a mere man unless one is doing so hypothetically. Nevertheless, even if all of the feats listed in these three verses were deeds that believers could actually count on being able to do after petitioning the Holy Spirit, it remains unclear how speaking with the tongues of angels would help fulfill the prophecy concerning tongues in Isaiah 28:11-12. In other words, tongues were not meant to persuade unbelieving angels to embrace the faith, so speaking in an angelic tongue would seem pointless. Besides, even if speaking with the gift of tongues were the same as speaking with the language of angels, trying to pray in tongues in order to conceal the contents of one’s prayer from the devil could still never succeed since the devil himself is an angel and thus capable of understanding angelic speech.

4. The spiritual gift of tongues does not empower believers to speak a mysterious language.

In spite of the fact that the inaugural use of tongues in Acts 2:4-11 only involved real foreign languages, some Charismatics incorrectly use 1 Corinthians 14:2 to endorse the view that tongues can also be a mysterious language known only to God. Yet, in 1 Corinthians 14:1-3 we read:

1 Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy. 2 For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries. 3 But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.

Now without reading the entire chapter (of 1 Corinthians 14), one might think that Paul is endorsing the view that to speak with tongues is to communicate with God in a private language known only to the person speaking and to God.  After all, Paul does say that the tongues-speaker speaks mysteries and that he is not doing so “unto men, but unto God.” Yet, contextually speaking, in 1 Corinthians 14:1-3 Paul is contrasting tongues-speaking with prophesying in order to demonstrate that prophesying is the better spiritual gift for believers. Paul’s contrast focuses on the fact that tongues, by design, cannot (normally) be understood in the usual scenario where those hearing the tongues are not native speakers of the foreign language being spoken. Such would be the case in each local church. Because tongue-speaking (without an interpretation) is unintelligible to the unequipped listener, it cannot not edify, exhort nor comfort either the unequipped speaker or anyone listening.

On the other hand, prophecy can always be understood since it is always spoken in the language of the congregation and is done so for the purposes of edification, exhortation and comfort. Moreover, in 1 Corinthians 14:22 Paul insists that tongues spoken by believers are meant to edify unbelievers. Hence, employing tongues for self-edification is to use it for something other than what it was meant for. Furthermore, since 1 Corinthians 14 was written specifically to address the improper use of tongues in the church, all verses that mention tongue-speaking do so in a critical sense, not in an endorsing sense.

For example, that the tongue-speaker in 1 Corinthians 14:4 is said to edify himself implies that he is also able to interpret his tongues (1 Corinthians 14:14) and yet to Paul, self-edification is not to be preferred over church-edification (1 Corinthians 14:17-19). Also, in 1 Corinthians 14:2 when Paul says that no one understands the tongues-speaker except God, he is not saying this to suggest or propose a new form of communication with God. Rather, Paul highlights the improper scenario where the tongues-speaker is doing so to the wrong audience. In fact, if it were instead true that there exists no man who can actually understand tongues, then there is no way that the foreign-born Jews of Acts 2:8 would have recognized that some of the 120 Spirit-filled believers were preaching in the languages of their homelands. Nor could tongues ever function as a sign (i.e. miracle) as we are told in 1 Corinthians 14:22

Hence, when Paul says that the person speaking with tongues “speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him” he is again referring to the normal scenario where those hearing the tongues are not native speakers of the foreign language that the tongues-speaker is uttering.

5. “Praying in the spirit” or “praying in the Holy Ghost” is not a command to pray with tongues.

There are several verses in Scripture that seem to issue a request for believers to pray in the Spirit. For example:

But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. (John 4:23)

But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost (Jude 1:20)

Yet, in Ephesians 6:18 when we also read:

Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints

It is important to understand that the term “spirit” [pneuma G4151] in the Greek text of verse 18 is an anarthrous noun and therefore has no article, much less the definite article (i.e. “the”). It it therefore perfectly acceptable to understand Ephesians 6:18 as saying “supplication in spirit” as do some bible translations (e.g. ACV, ABP, Wycliffe Bible etc). It is also perfectly acceptable to say “supplication in the Spirit” as does the KJV especially if one understands pneuma as referring to God’s Spirit. This would explain why the KJV includes the definite article (i.e. “the”) and capitalizes “Spirit”—it gives readers the impression that the Holy Spirit is in view. At times, without the word “Holy” preceding the word Spirit (as in Jude 1:20) the word spirit all by itself can seem ambiguous.

Nevertheless, it is beyond doubt that in Ephesians 6:18, praying in the Holy Spirit is what is meant. Not only because of corroborating declarations in verses like John 4:23 and Jude 1:20 but also because to assume the alternative is to suppose an understanding of Ephesians 6:18 that is meaningless. Since in Scripture the spirit is synonymous with the heart, soul and mind, then supposing that Ephesians 6:18 is urging the reader to pray with his or her spirit is to suppose an instruction that has no other alternative. It is impossible to pray without having a mind or spirit.

Since we have established that verses like Ephesians 6:18 and John 4:23 are instructing believers to pray in the Holy Spirit, we must now focus on what that actually means. Paul in Romans 8:26-27 informs us that because we do not always pray the way that we are supposed to, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us with silent groanings. For there we read:

Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

That the Holy Spirit talks to the Father on our behalf is also confirmed by verses such as Galatians 4:6 and Romans 8:15 which indicate that the indwelling Holy Spirit issues a cry out to God; a cry which God consequently recognizes as coming from His own child. Therefore, according to Scripture, praying in the Spirit is to issue prayers that proceed from the Holy Spirit. But if it’s the Holy Ghost Who is actually doing the praying then how does a person respond when instructed to pray in the Spirit? Do we then ask the Holy Spirit to pray on our behalf? It certainly can’t hurt to do so; but it is evident from Romans 8:26-27 that the intercessory prayer of the Holy Ghost is a reaction to our own attempts to pray, howbeit inadequately. Thus any earnest attempt at prayer would seem to satisfy the request to pray in the Spirit.

Nevertheless, Charismatics often equate the phrase “praying in the Spirit” with praying in tongues. Yet, there is only one excerpt in all of Scripture that specifically talks about praying in tongues and there the practice is mentioned hypothetically before being  ridiculed as unfruitful (unless one is actually able to understand what one is saying). For in 1 Corinthians 14:14-16 we read:

For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also. Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest?

Here, Paul is telling the reader that if he is going to pray, he is going to do so with understanding. This means that Paul refuses to pray in tongues unless he can understand what he is saying. One wishes that Charismatic believers would fashion their reasoning after Paul’s when it comes to the unorthodox practice of praying with gibberish-sounding speech. In light of the above, there is no biblical support for the idea that “praying in the spirit” is a call for one to pray in tongues.

6. Paul criticizes, ridicules and discourages the practice of praying in tongues (without the gift of interpretation).

According to 1 Corinthians 14:14, praying in tongues is unprofitable because the person speaking cannot even understand their own speech unless they also have the gift of interpretation. This fact alone would seem to undermine the idea that speaking gibberish while praying is an acceptable form of thanksgiving or worship. As mentioned earlier, even if the gibberish that one uttered were actually the words of some obscure language spoken in a remote village of some distant country, the non-edifying nature of the speech disqualifies it from being a biblically-endorsed practice.

Paul criticizing praying with tongues:

For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also. (1 Corinthians 14:14-15)

Paul ridiculing praying with tongues:

Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest? For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified…Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men. (1 Corinthians 14:16-17, 20)

Paul discouraging praying with tongues:

I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all: Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue. (1 Corinthians 14:18)

One would think that the Holy Spirit writing through Paul meant for 1 Corinthians 14 to address non-gibberish speakers. In other words, those abusing the gift of tongues in the Corinthian churches were probably endowed with a real ability to speak foreign languages and yet Paul is very critical of these believers who would seek to haphazardly use this gift either in the church or even privately. In light of this, one would have to compound or amplify Paul’s admonitions when dealing with some modern scenarios where the supposed tongues-speaker is really just uttering gibberish.

It is interesting that we Christians in general have a low opinion of professing believers who utter prophecies that end up being false, or those who pretend to have the gift of healing and perpetrate public demonstrations of staged healings which are really lying wonders. Yet, we seem not to really care when it comes to fellow believers who are obviously and falsely perpetrating a tongues-gifted believer.  I say obviously not because I claim to know that what they speak is not a real language, but because the alleged tongues-speaking is done in a way that violates all of the biblical guidelines surrounding the gift of tongues and its usage. My point is, all three of these feats are spiritual gifts which certain professing believers purport to have, yet we are more upset at false prophets and false healers than we are of false tongues-speakers. This is just my personal observation.

7. Speaking in tongues is useless unless there is an interpretation. See 1 Corinthians 14:9

Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine? And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped? For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? So likewise ye, 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.
(1 Corinthians 14:6-9)

Charismatic believers may be shocked to discover that the bible describes tongues-speaking (without an interpretation) as an “unfruitful” and futile endeavor (1 Corinthians 14:9, 14). In 1 Corinthians 14:6, Paul says that tongue-speaking that is not eventually understood to be “revelation”, “knowledge”, “prophecy” or “doctrine” cannot profit the hearer. Then, in the next two verses (i.e. 7-8) Paul insists that all sounds should provide distinction if they wish to convey anything useful. This is an elementary observation that seems to have been overlooked in the modern-day tongues movement. Paul concludes that if the uttered sound is indiscernible to those listening, then the tongues-speaker is merely “speak[ing] into the air.” The phrase “speaking into the air” is obviously a common sense way of saying that indiscernible speech is useless. In fact, in this chapter, Paul argues that tongues-speaking (without an interpretation) can only serve to portray the tongue-speaker as a “barbarian” or a “mad”man (1 Corinthians 14:11,23).

Regarding this issue, Dr. Henry Morris also adds the following insight:

The gift of prophecy was not as spectacular, though more profitable. Thus one possessing the gift of tongues could more easily become puffed up and be tempted to use his ability just to draw attention to himself (or herself) — that is, to “edify” (or “build up”) himself. In fact, it is probable that he might even open himself to demonic inspiration, for it is unlikely that the Holy Spirit would inspire a message that would be mere gibberish to its hearers. In the definitive passage on this gift, when it was first given on the day of Pentecost, the result was that “the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marveled, saying one to another, Behold, … we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God” (Act 2:6-7, Act 2:11). When one really has the Spirit’s “gift of tongues” and uses it properly, then some such result as this should follow. Otherwise, it is useless, or even dangerous.

— Dr. Henry Morris, The New Defenders Study Bible

8. Not all believers are granted the gift of speaking with tongues.

Charismatics invalidly infer that all believers should have all spiritual gifts when they urge other believers to speak in tongues as a way of validating that he or she has received the Holy Spirit. Yet in 1 Corinthians 12:29-30 we read: “Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? After converting Paul’s sentence from the interrogative mode to the declarative mode (as the biblical context requires us to) we arrive at the proposition that not all believers are expected to have all spiritual gifts (including the gift of speaking with tongues). Of course, this conclusion is to be expected since the bible also tells us in 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 that:

…there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another [diversity] of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.

Since there are diversities of gifts which are distributed at the discretion of the Holy Ghost, then this necessarily means that not every believer can or will speak with tongues. This is why Ephesians 4:11 uses the word “some” and not “all” when referring to the gifts distributed by the Holy Spirit. For there we read:

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

Therefore, Scripture forces us to denounce the unbiblical idea that all believers can or should speak with tongues.

 9. God issues the command to be quiet in the church unless it is possible for the tongues to be understood (interpreted). See 1 Corinthians 14:28-29

I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all: Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.
(1 Corinthians 14:18-19)

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. But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.
(1 Corinthians 14:27-28)

In 1 Corinthians 14:18, Paul says that in the church, it is better to speak words with understanding than to speak in tongues (without an interpreter). He therefore concludes that unless it is possible for the tongues to be understood in the church, the person who would presume to speak in tongues should instead remain silent.

The Apostle Paul was well educated and could undoubtedly speak in Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek and Latin, and possibly other languages as well. If, in addition, he had the supernatural gift of tongues, as this verse may imply, there is no record of his ever using it. He stressed that he would far rather speak in the church words that all could understand (1 Corinthians 14:19)…The gift of interpretation enabled its possessor to translate what someone of another nation was saying, an ability which would have particular value when trying to communicate with “barbarians” (1 Corinthians 14:11). If there was no such person present, however, then the responsibility fell to one who would presume to speak to the congregation in a foreign language also to translate it for them. This restriction would obviously put a serious curb on the wanton display of the gift of tongues to a group of people unable to comprehend its message.
— Dr. Henry Morris, The New Defenders Study Bible

10. Since God is not the Author of confusion, speaking with tongues in church without providing a valid interpretation is not from God. See 1 Corinthians 14:33

If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?
(1 Corinthians 14:23)

For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.
(1 Corinthians 14:33)

According to 1 Corinthians 14:33, when it comes to church conduct, God is not the author of confusion. We all know that any speech that is spoken without signification (i.e. an interpretation) is confusing to the church. Therefore, it is safe to conclude that God is not the author of tongues without interpretation in the church.

This natural reaction of anyone encountering a person who seems to be speaking in gibberish, would be greatly augmented if he came into a building where many people were doing this simultaneously. Rather than being a sign which would bring unbelievers to Christ, this would drive them away…The “confusion” here [1 Corinthians 14:33] applies in context specifically to churches with uncontrolled and disorderly manifestations of tongues and supposed prophecies.
— Dr. Henry Morris, The New Defenders Study Bible

11. If tongues are spoken in the church, it should only be done by one person at a time, and then by no more than three persons in total. Therefore, a church collectively speaking in tongues is madness. See 1 Corinthians 14:23

If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?
(1 Corinthians 14:23)

If any man speaks in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret. But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.
(1 Corinthians 14:27-28)

According to the bible, when in the church (or a gathering) only one believer was allowed to speak in tongues at a time and only three in total for that church service; and even then only when an interpreter was available. I can’t remember that last time that I visited a Charismatic church and saw these rules being followed. If tongues-speaking WERE administered in churches this way, it would go a long way in educating the parishioners about the importance of edification.

In verse 27, Paul insists that only one man speak in a foreign language at a time, with never more than three doing this at one meeting, and then only if there is someone present who can translate each message. Since one could only plan to use his gift of tongues if he knew in advance that an interpreter would be there who could explain his message, this restriction would have the practical effect of essentially eliminating this practice in the church. Nevertheless, Paul would not forbid the use of this gift (and neither should we—note I Corinthians 14:39) in case some circumstance should develop comparable to that at Pentecost.
— Dr. Henry Morris, The New Defenders Study Bible

12. According to the bible, women are not permitted to speak tongues in the church. See 1 Corinthians 14:34 (in context)

Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. (1 Corinthians 14:34)

This command is, of course, quite controversial in this age of militant feminism. Nevertheless, as Paul insists (I Corinthians 14:37), it is a command of God, and can only be disobeyed in peril of divine judgment. In context, however, Paul is specifically prohibiting women only from speaking in tongues “in the churches.” This gift, for reasons related to the divinely ordained roles for men and women, had been restricted to men, at least in church meetings. However, women were permitted to pray (I Corinthians 11:5) or even to prophesy in church, as long as the other rules were observed. – Dr. Henry Morris, The New Defenders Study Bible

13. According to the bible, tongues and other spiritual gifts will eventually cease.

Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues.
(1 Corinthians 14:39)

Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
(1 Corinthians 13:8)

Many Charismatic believers see 1 Corinthians 14:39 as an endorsement of unmitigated tongues-speaking. Without taking context into account it is hard to fault this conclusion. After all, in that verse, Paul does tell the reader to “forbid not to speak in tongues.” In  1 Corinthians 14, a chapter where Paul spends the preponderance of his writing, criticizing, ridiculing and discouraging tongues-speaking, what could he possibly mean by the concluding directive to “forbid not to speak with tongues?” Since the chapter’s purpose is to encourage prophecy and discourage tongues, is Paul changing his mind when he ends the chapter with this directive? Of course not! Obviously, he is only referring to the scenario where tongues are used properly such as the Acts 2:4-11 account. That Paul is not endorsing the improper use of tongues may also be understood from Paul’s similar comments regarding the gift of prophecy. The important take-home principle for all believers is summed up in 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21 which on the one hand tells us to not despise prophesies while on the other reminds us to “prove all things” and only hold fast to that which is good. We should indeed not “forsake” or “despise” either tongue-speaking or prophecy. Yet, we need to prove that whatever is being called either tongues or prophecy actually meets the biblical standard. Just as there are several guidelines for determining what counts as true prophecy (i.e. Deuteronomy 13:1-3, Deuteronomy 18:21-22 etc.) likewise there are several guidelines for determining what counts as real tongues-speaking (Acts 2:4-11, 1 Corinthians 14:22,27, 28 etc).

Furthermore, those who support the idea that tongues-speaking is a normative and on-going practice must allow for the possibility that the New Testament’s teachings on the cessation of spiritual gifts have taken (or will take) their course.

Regarding the foretold cessation of these spiritual gifts, Dr. Henry Morris states:

“Fail” is the same as “vanish away” (Greek katargeo, meaning “become useless”). “Cease” (Greek pauo, from which we derive “pause”) means simply “come to an end.” Thus all three of these supernatural gifts (and perhaps other supernatural gifts as well) would eventually become useless and would therefore be withdrawn by the Spirit.  – Dr. Henry Morris, The New Defenders Study Bible

References

  1. G1100, Thayer’s Greek Definitions
  2. Isa 28:11 – “stammering lips” vs. 1 Cor 14:21 “other lips” – According to Strongs Greek Lexicon, the Greek word heteros [G2087] translated as “other” also means “strange” or “different” which coincides with the Hebrew word “lâ‛êg” [H3934] when it is translated to mean “a foreigner” instead of “stammering.” Though certain foreign languages are so far different as to sound like the speech of stammerers; to stammer is to communicate with a speech disorder which involves hesitations and involuntary repetitions of certain sounds. Yet, it is clear from the parallelism in Isaiah 28:11 and the context of 1 Corinthians 14:21 that Isaiah 28:11-12 is referring to God’s use of a foreign language to astonish those who will still refuse to listen. Therefore, Isaiah 28:11 should read “a foreigners lips” and 1 Corinthians 14:21 should read “strange lips.”  
  3. Isa 28:11 – “another tongue”  vs. 1 Cor 14:21 “men of other tongues” – The word “men” is not part of the Greek text in 1 Corinthians 14:21 and may end up changing the intention of the referent text in Isaiah 28:11 which indicates the use of foreign languages but does not require God to use foreigners to accomplish this feat. In these verses, the word tongue in both the Hebrew and the Greek figuratively refers to the particular language that is being spoken by the bodily organ called the tongue. Hence, 1 Corinthians 14:21 could also read “another tongue” as in Isaiah 28:11. In fact, the Greek word employed in 1 Corinthians 14:21 is heteroglōssos [G2084] which means “a foreigner” or one who is “other tongued.”  Heteroglōssos is the combination of the word heteros [G2087] which means other, another, strange or different and glōssa [G1100] means tongue or language.
  4. Isaiah 28:11-12 is apparently a prophecy that has a double fulfillment. First through the Babylonian conquest of the Jewish nation and secondarily through the spiritual gift of tongues.
Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s