Why the Modern Tongues Movement Is Not Biblical

I.     Tongues Were Other Legitimate Languages

A.    When the Holy Spirit was given at Pentecost in Acts 2, believers began to speak in other languages—languages that they had never known or learned before. This supernatural ability to speak in languages other than their own was a result of the work of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4). Foreign onlookers who came from areas throughout the Middle East marveled that the Galilaeans were speaking in their own languages (Acts 2:6-11)! These onlookers understood what these Galilaeans were saying—they were declaring the “wonderful works of God” (Acts 2:11).

B.    From Acts 2, it is clear that both Greek words from which the English word “tongue(s)” is derived refer to legitimate languages. The word “glossa” (Acts 2:4, 11) and the word “dialekto” (Acts 2:8) both refer to legitimate languages as revealed by the text and the context. The believers who spoke in other tongues were not babbling any unintelligible gibberish. They were miraculously glorifying God in a language other than their own.

C.    Today, Charismatics and Pentecostals not only babble in unintelligible gibberish when supposedly “speaking in tongues,” but they are actually taught how to speak in tongues by leading figures within the Charismatic and Pentecostal camps. The “tongues” uttered by Charismatic and Pentecostals today is completely foreign to the miraculous speaking of legitimate languages as evidenced in the early church.

II.    Tongues Were Understood by the One Speaking

A.    A careful reading of 1 Corinthians 14 (specifically verses 2, 4 and 14) clearly reveals that the one speaking in a “tongue” understood what he was saying or praying. He was speaking to God (v. 2), and he was edifying himself (v. 4). In order for him to be edified, he had to understand what he was saying.

B.    In 1 Corinthians 14:14, Paul says that when one speaks in another language unknown to others, his understanding (note: he understood what he was saying) was unfruitful (it did not benefit anyone else) unless he exercised love and shared his understanding with others. Notice that the individual prayed “in the spirit” and with understanding also (1 Cor. 14:15).

C.    Today, Charismatics and Pentecostals, because they are speaking gibberish rather than an actual language, do not know (or cannot know) what they are saying. Such “tongues” speaking is completely foreign to the miraculous speaking of a legitimate language with understanding as evidenced in the early church.

III.    Tongues Were to Be Interpreted for the Church’s Edification

A.    The interpreter, whether the speaker of another language himself or another individual, knew and understood what the speaker was saying. The problem in the early church as addressed by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12-14 centered in the fact that the one speaking in tongues was acting in an unloving manner since he was not sharing his understanding with others and thus edifying the body of Christ (1 Cor. 14:14-17).

B.    The “tongues” speaker was to provide for the interpretation of that which he was saying (1 Cor. 14:13, 27-28) so others would also profit from his understanding. God desired that all believers in the early church understand His messages to them as given by tongues and prophecies (1 Cor. 14:12, 19, 26-31). Those who exercised their spiritual gifts (tongues, prophecy, knowledge, etc.) were not to use their gifts selfishly. The believers in the church were to be able to say “Amen!” to that which the speaker made known to them (1 Cor. 14:15-17).

C.    Today, Charismatics and Pentecostals who speak in “tongues” cannot interpret their “tongues” because unintelligible gibberish makes no sense! Language must be understood in order for it to be interpreted. Even if “tongues-speaking” Charismatics and Pentecostals did miraculously speak in another language and understand that which they are saying, few ever follow the Biblical precedent of interpretation for the edification of the church.

IV.    Tongues Were Orderly

A.    The very fact that the gift and interpretation of tongues was given by God for the purpose of glorifying Him and edifying the church necessarily demands that the use and interpretation of these foreign languages occur in an orderly manner. After encouraging the believers in the early church to use their God-given gifts for the edification of the body of Christ, the apostle Paul commands the believers: “Let all things be done decently and in order” (1 Cor. 14:40).

B.    God’s Word makes it abundantly clear that God is not the author of confusion (1 Cor. 14:33; Psa. 71:1). It is noteworthy that twice in the chapter in which Paul addresses the use of tongues in the Corinthian church, he emphasizes that all things must be done decently and in order and that God is not the author of confusion.

C.    Today, Charismatic and Pentecostal churches or assemblies are frequently houses of mass confusion where several or hundreds of individuals at once are “speaking in tongues” at the same time. Disorderliness and, as one famous Charismatic leader stated, “pandaemonium,” aptly describe the “manifestations of the Spirit” as they occur in Charismatic or Pentecostal churches.

V.    Tongues Were a Sign to Jews in the Early Church

A.    God’s Word clearly states that tongues were a sign to the Jews in the early church (1 Cor. 14:20-23). They were a sign that God was working with an entirely new body now, a body comprised of Jew and Gentile alike—the church (Eph. 2:11-22). They were also a sign used to convince the first-century Jews that the Gospel being proclaimed was of God.

B.    In the book of Acts, the act of speaking in tongues is mentioned only three times (Acts 2, 10, 19), and in each instance, Jews were present. The Jews needed authentication of the Gospel during this transition period in history, and this speaking in foreign languages authenticated true Christianity.

C.    Today, Charismatics and Pentecostals refuse to recognize that the supernatural speaking of foreign languages by those who did not previously know the language was a gift given by God in the early church to authenticate His message to the Jews.

VI.    Tongues Have Passed Away

A.    Tongues have passed away today because the transition period from law to grace is now over. God is no longer using prophets, apostles and others who authenticated God’s message “with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to His own will” (Heb. 2:3-4).

B.    Tongues have passed away today because the canon of Scripture is complete. Paul told the Corinthians that prophecies, tongues, etc. would cease (1 Cor. 13:8) “when that which is perfect (i.e., mature or complete) is come” (1 Cor. 13:10). When the canon of God’s Word was complete, God’s words to mankind were finished. No further messages or authentication were necessary. Tongues were no longer needed after the first century because the church possessed the complete Word of God and no longer needed any further direct revelation via prophets, apostles, tongues, etc.

C.    Charismatics and Pentecostals today deny that direct revelation is now closed and has ceased to exist. Many believe that God is still speaking today through tongues, visions, dreams, etc. This teaching is not only unscriptural since the Word of God alone is sufficient for all things (2 Tim. 3:14-17), but it opens the door to many strange and unbiblical “words from God” to mankind today. — Matt Costella