THE TONGUES QUESTIONBack to Alphabetical Index | Back to Chapter Index
There are many differing beliefs concerning the gift of languages that was given on the Festival of Pentecost when God began the New Covenant Church. And there are many differing opinions as to exactly what the apostle Paul meant when he wrote to the Corinthian church about their use of this gift.
Some people believe that a person must speak in an unknown language in order to receive the holy spirit and become a son of God. Others believe that people who practice speaking in an unknown language are demon possessed or manifesting an unstable mind. Additionally, there is a belief that the gift of speaking in a foreign language is only given to very few and it is only to be used under very special circumstances.
Today, as in the early church, the misuse of this spiritual gift is the cause of many spiritual problems for those who do not understand the reason that God gave this gift. There is no doubt that this subject is difficult and cannot be understood with a casual gloss of the scriptures. The following are two major factors which complicate this subject:
There is a reason for everything that God does, and so it is with the supernatural gift to speak in a foreign language. This study attempts to answer the following two questions about the gift of tongues (languages) and give a logical biblically based explanation for the use of this supernatural gift:
In order to give a more correct rendering of what the scriptures say about the gift of languages, the word 'language(s)' will often be used in place of the word 'tongue(s)', because the word language(s) more accurately translates the Greek word 'glossa'. Additionally, the words 'gifts' and 'unknown' will be omitted where they do not appear in the original text because they cloud the original intent of these scriptures.
THE LANGUAGE MIRACLE OF ACTS
"And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them" (KJV).
Nowhere in this age of the Church do we find these same events happening within the body of Christ, nor can we find this exact situation repeated in scripture. This was a one-time event that was given for a special purpose on a very special occasion.
These disciples were gathered in an orderly harmonious atmosphere to observe the Festival of Pentecost, whereas the proceedings within most charismatic churches are just the opposite of order and harmony; they often exhibit chaos and confusion during the manifestation of speaking in tongues.
"And they were all filled with the holy spirit and began to speak with other tongues [languages] as the spirit gave them utterance" (v.4 KJV).
The Jerusalem Bible translation of Acts 2:4:
"They were all filled with the holy spirit and began to speak in foreign languages as the Spirit gave them the gift of speech."
"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" (vs.5-6 KJV).
These scriptures do not indicate that there were any unknown or incomprehensible languages spoken there. All of these languages were understandable, coherent speech and did not need to be translated.
"And how hear we every man in our own tongue [ language] wherein we were born?" (KJV).
The Jerusalem Bible translation of Acts 2:8:
"How does it happen that each of us hears them in his own native language?"
There are at least 17 different languages referred to in Acts 2. What was so astonishing to those present was the fact that each person heard the gospel spoken in his own particular language.
In addition to the gift of speaking in a foreign language it is possible that there was also a miracle of hearing.
"We hear them speak in our own language the wonderful works of God. And they were amazed and did not understand the meaning of this event, and ask each other, What does this mean?" (Para.)
In order to explain why the disciples had the ability to speak in languages that were foreign to them, Peter quotes the prophet Joel and says that this was being done in order to fulfill Joel's prophecy about events that would happen in the end of the age of human rule:
"And it will come to pass in the last days, says God, I will pour out of my spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and daughters shall prophecy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my spirit; and they shall prophesy" (Acts 2:17-18 KJV).
The English word 'prophesy' in verse 18 is translated from the Greek verb 'propheteuo', which means 'to be a prophet', 'to prophesy', and is normally used in the context of speaking divine counsel or foretelling the future.
There is no doubt that on this Festival of Pentecost, both the speakers and the hearers were the beneficiaries of a special gift from God. There was no babbling, no incoherent speech, no unknown languages to decipher, and no interpreters were needed, all those present understood clearly what was being said.
Acts chapter 2 describes an event that is unique to those who were called to salvation at the very beginning of the gospel age. The following things happened on that Festival of Pentecost:
"Afterward he appeared to the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he had risen. And he said to them, Go you into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believes and is baptized shall be saved and he that believes not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name they shall cast out devils; they shall speak with new languages" (Mk.16:14-17 Para.).
Many people feel that Jesus said that all true Christians will speak in new languages. However, this is not what Jesus said. Jesus was only speaking to the eleven apostles, not to all the disciples. A close study of what was said indicates that when Jesus said, "these signs shall follow them," he was making a general statement. There does not seem to be anything in the original Greek language that indicates that these signs would be a part of each and every Christian's spiritual makeup. The apostle Paul confirms this analysis in 1.Corinthians chapter 12, when he spoke of different spiritual powers given separately and individually.
Many people also feel that the word 'new' in verse 17 means a language that was previously unknown to humanity. However, this is not true. Here, the English word `new' is translated from the Greek word 'kainos', which denotes 'that which is unaccustomed or unused' it does not mean something `new in time' or 'recent in time.'
The 'new tongues' ('kainos') spoken of in Mark 16:17 are the 'other tongues' ('heteros') spoken of in Acts 2:4. These languages were 'new and different,' but not in the sense that they had never been heard before or that they were new to the hearers, because it is clear from Acts 2:8 that this is not the case. These were new languages to the speakers; they were different from the languages that they were accustomed to speaking.
What Jesus says in Mark 16:14-18 is that there would be tremendous miracles done by some who truly believed in him in order to show others that they were his followers. However, to truly believe in Christ is more than just a superficial vocal pronouncement. To truly believe is to obey and have faith in his promises. True belief in Christ is a dynamic way of life, not just the voicing of ethereal platitudes.
The giving of the holy spirit with the attending gift of languages were all extraordinary events involving special circumstances for which there had been no precedent. The following are two of these events.
Cornelius, the Centurion
Acts chapters 10 and 11 record the account of Peter being sent to preach the gospel to the Roman officer Cornelius and his household. As Peter began to proclaim the gospel to those present, the holy spirit fell upon Cornelius and his household, and they began to speak in foreign languages (Acts 10:44-48; 11:15-18).
Through this event, God shows Peter and those who came with him that he was also calling non-Israelites to salvation. It is unclear from the Greek language used in this account whether the word 'fell' is used literally or metaphorically to indicate how these people received the holy spirit.
There is no mention in this account that the sound of wind or the appearance of fire accompanied their receiving of the holy spirit, which occurred on the Festival of Pentecost in 30 A.D. (Acts 2:1-3). Moreover, it seems that the speaking of foreign languages is the only similarity between these two events.
Paul at Ephesus
Acts 19:1-6 shows the apostle Paul communicating with those who had been baptized by John the Baptist. Paul baptized them in the name of Jesus Christ and performed the ordinance of laying on of hands. After the laying on of hands, those who were baptized spoke in languages and prophesied. This is also an example of a miracle of intelligent speech and discernible languages that were used to show that God had given his spirit to these individuals and separated them for a holy purpose.
CHART OF SPECIFIC EVENTS THAT OCCURRED WHEN THE HOLY SPIRIT WAS GIVEN IN THE NEW TESTAMENT:
The Disciples (Acts 2)
Paul (Acts 9)
Cornelius (Acts 10 & 11)
Paul at Ephesus (Acts 19:1-6)
The Spirit Descending as a Dove
Voice From Heaven
Sound of a Windstorm
Tongues of Fire
Speaking in Foreign Languages
The Laying on of Hands
This chart shows us that the only common event that happened to all was water baptism. It also indicates that there were different signs manifested for different people and circumstances.
What Does This Chart And The Scriptures Quoted Prove?
It proves that:
THE HOLY SPIRIT
Many people in the charismatic movement believe that one cannot receive the holy spirit unless one experiences speaking in unknown languages. Moreover, many of these same people believe that in order to acquire the gift of the holy spirit one must beg, plead, and agonize for it. Are these beliefs biblical fact or are they false concepts? A careful search of the scriptures shows that one neither has to speak in unknown languages or beg and plead for the gift of the holy spirit, because it is given by the grace of God to all who fulfill the requirements of repentance and water baptism.
"If you being evil know how to give good gifts to your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the holy spirit to them that ask him?" (Lk.11:13 KJV).
"Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the holy spirit" (Acts 2:38 KJV).
"And we are witnesses of these things; and so is also the holy spirit, whom God [God the Father] has given to them that obey him" (Acts 5:32 KJV).
The three scriptures above show the following:
LAYING ON OF HANDS AND FIRE
The accounts of Acts 8:9-17, 9:1-18 chapters 10 through 11 and 19:16 show that the ordinance of the laying on of hands is part of the process of receiving the holy spirit. These scriptures also show that nothing else is necessary after repentance and baptism for the receiving of the holy spirit except the laying on of hands.
If all true Christians must receive the holy spirit the same way the people on the Day of Pentecost did , why do we not see the appearance of fire on those who supposedly receive this gift while speaking in unknown languages? If this were necessary, fire would be manifested. Because fire is not manifested, it is not necessary for receiving the holy spirit, and neither is speaking in unknown languages.
Some believe that Jesus told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the holy spirit because they (the disciples) were not ready to receive this Spirit. However, this is not the case at all; just the opposite is true. The disciples were ready. It was God the Father and Jesus Christ who were not yet ready to give it.
God has a plan for the salvation of humanity. And within this plan, there are certain benchmarks in history on which certain events are foreordained to occur. The annual observances and festivals are such historical benchmarks on which prophetic events occur. The following are four of these foreordained events that took place in 30 A.D.:
1. On the Passover in 30 A.D., the exact day when a lamb was sacrificed for the sins of Israel, Jesus Christ became the supreme sacrifice for the sins of humanity.
2. The Days of Unleavened Bread that followed Jesus' crucifixion pictured coming out of sin and freedom from sin, which can only be accomplished through Jesus' sacrifice.
3. The Wave Sheaf Offering that is offered during the Days of Unleavened Bread pictures the first of the first-fruits (Jesus Christ) being presented to God.
4. On the Festival of Pentecost, God the Father gave his holy spirit to the first humans to accept his offer of the new agreement between him and humanity. This festival is fifty days after the Wave Sheaf Offering and it pictures the first-fruits of the summer harvest (the elect of God) being offered to God the Father.
The disciples had to wait until the Day of Pentecost arrived to receive the holy spirit. This was not because they were not ready, but because the precise time in God's plan for this event to take place had not yet arrived:
"And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them" (Acts 2:1-3 KJV).
The Day of Pentecost was fully come when the holy spirit was given to those first-fruits of the harvest of humanity.
HISTORY OF THE PRESENT DAY CHARISMATIC MOVEMENT
Although the manifestation of glossolalia (speaking in tongues) among the ancients can be traced as far back as 1100 B.C. and is spoken of by Plato (429-347 B.C.) and Virgil (70-91 B.C.), the modern glossolalia movement is said to have started in the early part of the twentieth century through the efforts of a Methodist minister named Charles F. Parkham. At first, the practice of glossolalia was found almost exclusively among the Pentecostal churches. However, this has now changed and one can find people 'speaking in tongues' in almost every professing Christian denomination, including the Catholic Church.
Before and after the Festival of Pentecost in 30 A.D., there is no biblical record of the displays of emotionalism and unintelligible babbling that are practiced within charismatic religious groups today. This fact alone should alert a person to the discrepancies between the scriptures and the practice of speaking in unintelligible languages.
Since the Book of Acts does not support the practice of speaking in unintelligible languages as is practiced by charismatic religions today, what biblical conclusions can be reached about these practices? Paul's letter to the Corinthians has part of the answer, and the history of paganism has the rest of the answer.
THE CORINTHIAN EXPERIENCE
The Corinthian Church seems to have been a group of Christians with many problems. Both of Paul's letters to them contain strong correction. His first letter was almost totally devoted to a series of reprimands concerning the church's poor behavior.
After Paul's salutation to the Corinthians, he began to categorize their problems. No other church of God is corrected on as many points as the Corinthian church. This fact alone shows something about the poor spiritual character and maturity of these people. This is not to say that they were not true Christians. Clearly, the majority of the Corinthian church were God's elect children. However, they had a major problem in understanding how to conduct themselves and they were truly babes in the faith.
It is apparent that many of those at Corinth thought they were spiritual giants; however, Paul puts this wrong concept to rest early in his letter:
"Brethren, I was not able in the past to speak to you as spiritual ones, but as carnal ones, even as babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: because you were not then able, neither are you able now able to eat strong spiritual meat" (1.Cor.3:1-2 Para.).
First Corinthians shows that the majority of those in the church at Corinth were sectarian, carnal, immoral, unloving, poorly versed in the scriptures, and undisciplined in worship.
Paul reprimanded the Corinthians for envy, strife, division of opinions and arguing, jealousy, immorality and incest, lawsuits, drunkenness, conceit, lack of Christian love, carnal mindedness, desecration of their bodies (i.e., the temple of God), intellectual vanity, misuse of spiritual gifts, and disorderly and shameful conduct in and out of church meetings. Paul's overall message to the elect at Corinth was a call to repentance.
Many people who practice speaking in unintelligible languages point to the Corinthian church as the perfect example of the proper use of the gift of languages. However, Paul's letter to the Corinthian church shows just the opposite. The letter shows a church that was the hallmark of spiritual immaturity—a church that was on the verge of stepping back into the paganism out of which many of its people had recently come (1.Cor.6:9-11; 12:1-3). The picture Paul paints of the Corinthian church is of people who are dying spiritually and allowing evil to rule in their lives. Far from being a perfect example of spiritual maturity, those at Corinth were a perfect example of how a Christian should not behave.
For the true Christian of today, the significance of Paul's reprimand to the Corinthians concerning the gift of languages is that we can learn from their mistakes and not fall into the same trap of only using the milk of the word of God, which causes one to remain a spiritual infant (1.Cor.3:1-3).
There is little historical documentation about the people of Corinth. However, what is known gives us an insight into the potential problems of being a Christian in that society.
Corinth was the capital of Achaia in 57 A.D. and was at the crossroads of a major trade route between Asia and Europe. The city was very wealthy and notorious for the licentious lifestyle of its inhabitants. The city's reputation was so bad that it became a proverb in some foreign languages and was immortalized by Latin poets. The term 'to Corinthianize' became a part of the Greek vocabulary, which meant 'to live in drunken immoral debauchery'.
The temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, towered above the city on a hill. One thousand priestesses who were temple prostitutes spent their evenings selling their bodies in the city of Corinth. The city was home to the religions of its many diverse inhabitants who came to ply their trades in this prosperous area. The bulk of the inhabitants were Italian freemen, Greeks, Jews, and people from the cities of Levant. Within this city of wealth, immorality, and Satanic religions, God called a cross section of its citizens to become his children. When one considers their environment and cultural background, it is no small wonder that these people had difficulty growing into mature Christians.
The following things should be noted about 1.Corinthians chapters 12 through 14:
CONCERNING SPIRITUAL THINGS
"Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant" (v1 KJV).
The English word 'gifts' is not in the original text, Paul says that he does not want them to be ignorant about spiritual matters. The word 'gift' was incorrectly inserted into this scripture by the translators of the King James Bible, which severely limits what Paul is talking about. He actually addresses a broad spectrum of spiritual behavior and attitudes. A more correct translation of verse 1 is as follows:
"Now brethren, I would not have you ignorant concerning spiritual things" (Para.).
Idol Worship and Speaking by the Spirit
"You know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, even as you were led.(See 1.Cor.6:9). "Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the spirit of God calls Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the holy spirit" (vs.2-3 KJV).
What Paul says in verses 2 and 3 seems to be out of context with what he says about spiritual things; however, Paul is reprimanding the Corinthians throughout this letter for their inappropriate behavior. Paul would not mention idol worship unless it was a problem within the Church. Moreover, understanding what kind of spirit would curse the Savior is important to discovering what he means in these two verses.
Basic knowledge of the spirit world includes the realization that there are good and evil spirits, and both kinds of spirits have the ability to influence human behavior, depending on each individual's attitude. James says to "Resist the devil and he will flee from you" (Jms.4:7). If indeed some of those at Corinth were allowing themselves to be deceived, controlled, and inspired by demons to curse Christ in the frenzy of a charismatic experience, it is easy to understand what Paul means in verses 2-3.
It is very important to keep in mind that the religious background of many of the Corinthians was paganism, which included the worship of idols, sex orgies, intellectual philosophies, miracle working, supernatural healing and even speaking in unintelligible languages.
Spiritual Gifts and Supernatural Power
Before continuing this study it is important to mention that just because a person has the ability to use supernatural power, it does not mean that they have been given this power by Jesus Christ or God the Father. Many people today believe that they are doing the will of God because of physical works and manifestations of supernatural power. However, the scriptures clearly show that, unless people are called by the Father, transformed into a son of his new creation and keep his laws, precepts, and principles, they are not his people:
"Not everyone that says to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many shall say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? and in your name cast out devils? and in your name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess to them I never knew you: depart from me you that work lawlessness" (Matt.7:21-23 KJV). See also Mk.3:5-6; Lk.21:8.
Many great works are done in the name of Jesus; however, this does not mean that Jesus has sent those who do these works. Each individual that the Father has called to salvation during this age of the church is warned to test the spirits to determine for themselves if the source of the teaching or supernatural works is good or evil (1.Jn.4:1):
"Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits to see if they are of God: Because many false prophets are in the world" (1.Jn.4:1 Para.).
"Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but are in reality wolves . By their fruits you shall know them, Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs from thistles? So every good tree produces good fruits; but the corrupt tree produces evil fruits. A good tree cannot produce evil fruits, nor a corrupt tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not produce good fruits is to be cut down and thrown into the fire. Then surely from their fruits you shall know them" (Matt.7:15-19 Para.).
Diversity of Gifts and Administration
"Now 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 works all in all. But the manifestation of the spirit is given to every man to profit withal" (v 4-7 KJV). See also 1.Cor.12:7-10, 28-31.
The English word 'gifts' used throughout 1.Corinthians 12 is translated from he Greek word 'charisma,' which means 'a gift of grace'. That is, a gift involving grace (Greek: charis) on the part of God as the giver of the gift.
In verses 4-6, Paul clearly says that the Father bestows many different kinds of spiritual gifts upon his children. He says that there are different spiritual gifts from the Father and each gift is given for the purpose of benefiting the entire Church.
Types of Gifts
"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 divers kinds of languages; To another the interpretation of languages" (vs.8-10 KJV).
Paul explains that individuals within the church are given different spiritual gifts through the Father's holy spirit. Clearly, not all individuals within the church have the same gift or power from God. But how can Paul's statement about spiritual gifts be reconciled with the events in the Book of Acts? Did not all those who received the holy spirit in the Book of Acts speak with foreign languages? No, they did not. Paul did not speak in foreign languages upon receiving the holy spirit; moreover, Jesus did not speak in a foreign or unknown language when the holy spirit descended on him at baptism.
What Paul says about the giving of different gifts of spiritual powers to different individuals in verses 8-10 is the first indication that 1.Corinthians chapters 12 through 14 may not contain the same subject matter that is discussed in Acts.
WHO DECIDES WHO GETS A SPIRITUAL GIFT?
"But all these work that one and the selfsame spirit, dividing [to distribute] to every man severally as he will. For as the body is one, and has many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ" (vs.11-12 KJV).
Jesus Christ distributes various supernatural skills, talents and attributes through the holy spirit to individual Christians for the Father, because Jesus is the head of the church under the authority of the Father.
Paul further explains the purpose of these individual strengths and skills: "For by one spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one spirit" (v13 KJV). These scriptures stress unity in the body of the elect.
"For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?" (vs.14-16 KJV).
Some apparently thought that they were somehow more righteous because they could speak various languages, but others could not:
"If the whole body were an eye, where is the hearing? if the whole were hearing, where is the smelling? But now has God set the members every one of them in the body, as it has pleased him" (vs.17-18 KJV).
Paul repeatedly stresses the point of unity and the necessity of the body (church) to work together.
EACH MEMBER HAS A SPECIAL PURPOSE
"And if they were all one member, where is the body? But now are they many members, but yet one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of you: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you" (vs.19-21 KJV).
This is a rebuke to those who thought that their particular attribute, talent, or spiritual gift was superior to that of another member of the body of Christ.
"No, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: And those members of the body, which we think to be less honorable, upon these we bestow more abundant honor; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness" (vs.22-23 KJV).
Each member has a valuable function and should be respected for the part they play in the functioning of the body as a whole.
God the Father has specifically chosen each individual that he wants to be a part of the body of Christ in this age (Jn.6:44,65). Everyone he has chosen is a part of the church; all are necessary or they would not have been chosen. Each chosen one is just as important to him as another. And each has a function to carry out for the benefit of the whole church. It behooves each and every individual to support the whole body in order for the entire church to prosper. No member of the body of Christ is unimportant unless they make themselves so.
EACH MEMBER IS DEPENDENT ON THE OTHER
"For our comely parts have no need: but God has tempered the body together, having given more abundant honor to that part which lacked. That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another" (vs.24-25 KJV).
The English word 'schism' in verse 25 is translated from the Greek word 'schisma', which means 'a rent' or 'a division'. In this verse, 'schisma' is a metaphor for a contrary condition to something God has purposed for the church.
A major part of the problem with the Corinthian church centered around their lack of Christian maturity, unity, and order. At the beginning of his letter to them, Paul says , "Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius" (1.Cor.1:13-14 KJV). Paul's reprimand concerning the disunity within the church is a stinging rebuke to the entire Church. Moreover, he says that the elect of God should have the following attitude:
"And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it" (v26 Para.).
AN ORDER OF RELATIVE IMPORTANCE
When we consider that Paul is giving the Corinthians strong correction for the misuse of speaking in various languages, it seems significant that Paul lists the ability to speak various languages last in order of importance.
"Now you are the body of Christ, and members in particular. And God has set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of languages. Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with languages? do all interpret [Greek: diermeneuo, i.e., 'interpret fully', 'explain']?" (vs.27-30 KJV).
Obviously all in Corinth did not have the gift of languages. Moreover, these questions by Paul seem designed to show that all do not have the same skills, talents, and attributes, and that spiritual gifts are given for the benefit of the church as a whole.
God calls individuals to become a part of his elect children (Jn.6:44,65) and gives them spiritual gifts as he deems necessary to perfect them and the church as a whole:
"And he gave some apostles; and some prophets; and some evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the Saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Til we all come in the unity of faith, and of the knowledge of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" (Eph.4:11-13 KJV).
When a person is placed into the body of Christ and given spiritual gifts, these gifts are not for one's personal aggrandizement, entertainment, or mere public display. They are for the work of proclaiming the gospel and for the edification and enrichment of the Father's elect children whom God is training to serve all of mankind through his family and government.
Although spiritual gifts are discussed elsewhere, 1.Corinthians is the only place that mentions the gift of languages by name. A comparison of the various list of gifts show that these gifts were not a catalog of specific unchanging functions within the church. The following sixteen separate gifts, which are listed by the apostle Paul, are all provided by God for the edification of the Church as a whole:
All sixteen separate gifts in the list above are provided by God for the edification of the Church as a whole.
THE MORE EXCELLENT WAY
"Earnestly desire the best gifts: however, I will show you a more excellent way" (vs.30-31 Para.).
Paul said he would show the Corinthians the solution to their problems. He told them to earnestly desire the best gifts but he would show them something far better than having the skills, talents, and attributes that he had mentioned.
Love is the More Excellent Way
"Though I speak with the language of men and of angels, and have not charity [love], I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal" (v1).
Some people believe that Paul said he was able to speak in the language of angels; however, he just said that, even if he could speak in the language of angels, it would be a worthless skill without love. Perhaps the reason he refers to the musical instruments is because the beating of cymbals and the blowing of trumpets accompanied the vain worship of the pagan gods Dionysus and Cybele at that time. The implication is that preaching in any language was useless unless love was present.
"And though I have prophecy [inspired preaching], and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity [love], I am nothing. 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 profits me nothing" (v3).
Paul goes on to say that any spiritual gifts that are held in high regard are not profitable unless there is genuine love as the prime motivation behind their use.
"Love suffers long, and is kind; love envies not; love vaunts not itself, is not puffed up, Does not behave itself unseemly, seeks not her own, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil; Rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; Bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things" (vs.4-7 KJV).
The Living Bible Paraphrases verses 4-7 as follows:
"Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, never haughty or selfish or rude. Love does not demand its own way. It is not irritable or touchy. It does not hold grudges, and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong. It is never glad about injustice, but rejoices whenever truth wins out. If you love someone you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will always believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him."
To what kind of love is Paul referring? And what does this love have to do with the subject of speaking in various languages? The English word 'love' in this chapter is translated from the Greek noun 'agape', which denotes a particular kind of love that is not self-serving, but is selfless and places the welfare of others above the self. It is an expression of deep concern for others, which is accompanied by actions as manifestations of this kind of love. 'Agape' is the kind of deep, outgoing love that God the Father and Jesus Christ have for humanity.
Paul is showing that, of all the spiritual gifts that one can be given, love is the one to be most sought after. All other spiritual gifts are nothing unless one has agape love. True children of God must imitate the character of the Father and Jesus; therefore, they must seek to have the kind of love that the Father and his Son have for the elect and for humanity. This is the point that Paul was trying to make to the Corinthians. He was trying to convey to them that they had been missing the point, by placing the emphasis on the wrong spiritual attribute when they should have been seeking Godly love above all else.
"Love never fails: but if there are prophecies, they will be abolished, if languages, they shall cease; if knowledge, it shall vanish. For we know and prophesy in part. But when the perfect thing comes, then that which is in part shall be eliminated" (vs.8-10 Para.).
Put Away Childish Things
"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" (v11 KJV).
What are these childish things? Are not all the things he reprimanded the Corinthians for childish? None of the things he reprimanded them for are behavioral patterns of spiritually mature Christians.
"For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known" (v12 KJV).
Paul explains that a Christian cannot know everything about the spiritual realm of existence or about the Father's plan for his new creation. In fact, we understand very little about the spirit world and God's future plans. But, when we see the Father face to face, we will understand.
Love, the Greatest Spiritual Attribute
"And now abides faith, hope, love, but the greatest of these three is love" (v13 Para.). Again, Paul stresses the attitude of love as he speaks about inspired preaching.
The greatest spiritual attribute a person can possibly have is the love that is completely selfless, and shows godly character. Paul chose his words very carefully when he spoke about love in order to make sure that the Corinthians knew that love was the greatest character trait. Notice Paul even prefaces his next statement with the phrase "Pursue after love."
"Pursue after love, and desire the spiritual, but rather that you may prophesy" (v1 Para.).
The English word 'spiritual' in verse 4 is translated from the Greek word 'pneumatikos', which connotes invisibility and power. This word does not occur in the gospels; it first appears after Pentecost of 30 A.D. and it pertains to spirituality.
The general theme and meaning of the words 'prophesy' and prophesying' in chapter 14 seems to be that of inspired preaching with the intent of conveying spiritual knowledge for the edification of the brotherhood. Moreover, some translators believe these words mean 'the speaking forth the mind and counsel of God'.
Speaking Only to God
"For he that speaks in a language speaks not to men, but to God: for no man understands him; howbeit in the spirit [mind?] he speaks mysteries" (v2 KJV).
The first part of this verse can be understood to say that, if a person is speaking in an actual communicative language that no one around him understands because they are not schooled or trained in that particular language, he is speaking to God, because only God who understands all languages would understand what is said. This verse is not talking about gibberish or uncontrolled babbling.
The second part of this verse is more difficult to understand; however, the same reasoning applies. There are many scriptures that tell us that God understands our every thought and emotion. Therefore, even if the one speaking understands what he is saying, he is still speaking mysteries to those around him if they do not understand the language in which he is speaking.
"But he that prophesies speaks to men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort" (v3 KJV).
Paul says that the man who is inspired by God to preach the truth of God gives those who hear him something of value, unlike the person who speaks in a language that no one can understand. See verse 2 above.
It is important to note that when Paul refers to inspired speaking within the formal worship service, he never uses the female gender and always refers to those who are speaking as being in the capacity of a minister or teacher.
Speak to Edify the Church
"He that speaks in a language edifies himself; but he that prophesies edifies the church" (v 4 KJV).
If a man speaks in a language that only he understands, that person is really only speaking to himself and God. The phrase 'edifies himself' seems to imply a selfish motivation. However, the man who is inspired to speak or teach the truth of God so that others can understand it, benefits the church.
Chapter 14 discusses those who are preaching and teaching within the congregation of God:
"I would that you all spoke with languages but rather that you prophesied: for greater is he that prophesies than he that speaks with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying" (v5 KJV).
Paul says that he wished all those who were preachers and teachers could speak foreign languages. However, he wished even more that they could all be inspired speakers who were able to explain the Word of God, because the one who can explain God's truth has a far better gift than the one who is multilingual unless the multilingual preacher or teacher can also explain and expound the Word of God in the foreign language with clarity. It is clear from what Paul says that everything preached or taught within the congregation of God must be for the edification of the church, not just for the individual doing the preaching and teaching.
The most plausible reason that Paul wanted all the preachers and teachers of Corinth to be multilingual like he was is that the church of Corinth was a multilingual congregation. Remember, this Church was in a city that was a racial melting pot. Because of this, language would naturally be a barrier to learning. Therefore, multilingual preachers and teachers who could expound the truth of God would be of great benefit to the entire Church.
SPEAK TO CONVEY UNDERSTANDING:
"Now, brethren, if I come to you speaking with languages, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine?" (v6 KJV).
Paul tells them that it would not benefit them if he spoke something they could not understand, but revealing knowledge and understanding to them was what benefited them.
"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?" (vs.7-8 KJV).
Paul stated his point in at least ten different ways to make sure that the Corinthians understood exactly what he meant, because their salvation depended on how they reacted to what he told them. The problem they were having with multilingual preachers and teachers combined with their other problems was tearing the church apart. In fact, if there was the aspect of a charismatic movement within the church, the danger was ever more threatening because of the demonic influence upon those preaching and teaching.
Make Things Easy to Understand
"So likewise you, except you utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for you shall speak into the air. There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices [sounds] in the world, and none of them is without signification [meaning]. Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice [sound], I shall be to him that speaks a barbarian, and he that speaks shall be a barbarian to me" (vs.9-11).
The English word 'barbarian' is a translation of the Greek word 'barbaros', which has some very interesting implications in this verse. 'Barbaros' means 'one whose speech is rude or harsh'. Hence, it signifies one who speaks a strange or foreign language. It also denoted anyone who was ignorant of the Greek language and culture.
The inference is that, if one could not express himself so that another person could understand what he said, the speaker was not well educated in the language. Moreover, it implied that the speaker had the inability to communicate intelligently.
Speak to Edify
"Even so you, forasmuch as you are zealous of [exercise] spiritual gifts, seek that you may excel to the edifying of the church" (v12 KJV).
Paul tells the preachers and teachers who were exercising their spiritual gifts that they should seek to be extremely proficient in building up the congregation. Although Paul does not say it explicitly, it can be inferred that he was telling them to seek to edify the church instead of only themselves.
"Wherefore let him that speaks in a language pray that he may interpret [Greek: diermeneuo, 'to interpret fully' or 'explain')" (v13 KJV).
If a person is going to speak before the congregation, he should be able to explain in detail what he means to say. Otherwise, it is of no benefit to those listening. Therefore, Paul tells the speakers to pray for the ability to explain clearly what they are preaching or teaching.
PRAYING IN THE SPIRIT:
"For if I pray in a language, my spirit [Greek: 'pneuma'] prays, but my understanding [Greek: 'nous', i.e., 'the intellect' or 'mind'] is unfruitful" (v14 KJV).
The English word 'spirit' in verse 14 is translated from the Greek word 'pneuma', which means 'a current of air' or 'a breath'. This text makes sense when the meanings of the Greek words are understood. Paul simply states that if one does not understand what is spoken, the speech is just so much air or wind.
"What is it then? I will pray with the spirit [pneuma] and I will pray with the understanding [intellect or mind] also: I will sing with the spirit,[pneuma] and I will sing with the understanding [intellect or mind] also" (v15 KJV).
Some people believe that the word 'spirit' in these verses refers to a spiritual language. However, why would God want humans to use a language they do not understand? Because communication is a two-way transmission of information, this belief is not logical.
"Else when you shall bless with the spirit [pneuma], how shall he that occupies the room of the unlearned say amen at your giving of thanks, seeing he understands not what you say?" (v16 KJV).
The English word 'unlearned' in verse 16 is a translation of the Greek word 'idiotes', which means 'a person without professional knowledge' or a person that is 'ignorant', 'uneducated', 'unskilled' or 'unlearned'. It does no good to make a public prayer to God in which the congregation is to partake if no one can understand what is being said. Logically, those who cannot understand what is being said cannot participate in the public prayer.
"For you verily give thanks well, but the other is not edified" (v17 KJV). The only one edified is the one giving the prayer.
IS THERE A PRAYER LANGUAGE?
Many people in charismatic religions believe that they have a spiritual gift from God that allows them to pray in an unknown language. Some of these people believe that because they sometimes do not know what they should pray for, God does it for them through an unknown prayer language.
Most who believe and practice an unknown prayer language quote the above scriptures in 1.Corinthians 14 and the following text of Romans 8:26-27 as justification for their belief and practice:
"Likewise the spirit also helps our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the spirit itself makes intercession with groanings that cannot be uttered. And he that searches the hearts knows what is the mind of the spirit, because he [it] makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God" (Rom.8:26-27 KJV).
The English word 'uttered' is a translation of the Greek word 'alaletos' which means 'something that cannot be spoken'. If this something cannot be spoken, there is no justification for an unknown prayer language. Moreover, the English word 'groanings' is a translation of the Greek word 'stenagmos' which means 'a sigh not a special unknown language'. See 2.Cor.5:2-40.
This is a more literal interpretation from The Interlinear Bible:
"Likewise the spirit joins in to help us in our weakness, for sometimes we are at a loss to pray for things as we should, however the spirit pleads our case for us with in a way we cannot speak. And God who searches the hearts, knows what is in the thoughts of the spirit, because the spirit according to the will of God intercedes for elect children" (Rom.8:26-27 IB).
Does God have the ability to understand human languages? This might seem like a ridiculous question; however, it seems just as ridiculous that God would have designed an unintelligible language and require us to speak to him in this language, which we do not understand. There are many scriptures that tell us that God understands us completely and that his understanding of us includes our innermost feelings, thoughts, desires, and needs that are sometimes difficult for us to express.
Truly one does not always know exactly what they need or how to express these needs. Because of this, one of the functions of the holy spirit is to act as an information gathering and communication system between a child of God and the God family. This function allows the Father and Christ to be aware of the innermost feelings, thoughts, desires and needs of those called to salvation. Because the Spirit communicates one's true physical and spiritual condition to the Father and Christ, the child of God has the assurance that, even before they ask anything of the Father, he already knows what they need:
"A man's conscience [spirit] is the Lords search light exposing his hidden motives" (Pro.20:27 LBP).
The King James translation renders this scripture:
"The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord, searching all the inward parts of the belly."
Praying in the Spirit
"And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God; Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the spirit, and watching thereto with all perseverance and supplication for the saints" (Eph.6:17-18 KJV).
Paul did say that we must pray in the spirit. But, what does it mean to pray in the Spirit? Since the Father is spirit and lives in the spirit dimension of time and space, we must communicate with him through spirit-power. In order for us to do this, the Father has provided a function of the holy spirit that communicates our thoughts to him and Christ.
WHY WAS PAUL THANKFUL?
1.Corinthians 14:18- 40
"I thank my God, I speak with languages more than you all" (v18 KJV).
Why was Paul thankful that he was multilingual? The following are two plausible answers to this question:
BE MATURE CHRISTIANS
Paul clearly understood that the misuse of the spiritual gift of languages by the elect of God at Corinth was hindering their spiritual growth; therefore, he continues to stress the proper preaching, teaching, and conduct within the congregational setting:
"Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding [Greek: 'nuos', i.e., 'intelligence' or 'mind]', that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in a [foreign] language. Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be you children, but in understanding be men" (vs.19-20 KJV).
A more modern translation of verse 20 is as follows:
"Brothers, stop thinking childish thoughts; keep the innocence of a child, but in understanding be adults."
ANOTHER REASON FOR BEING MULTILINGUAL
"In the law it is written, with men of other languages and other lips will I speak to this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, says the Lord" (v21 KJV).
Beck's translation of verse 21 more accurately conveys the true intent of what Paul said about communicating the truth of God to people:
"In a strange language and by the mouth of foreigners I will speak to these people."
In verse 21, Paul refers to Isaiah 28:9-13, which contains information about how God gives understanding to his elect children and how he hides understanding from others.
"Wherefore languages are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not. But prophesying serves not for them that believe not, but for them which believe" (v22 KJV).
If verse 22 is referring to some unknown language as many believe, it makes no sense at all when it is compared with the accounts in the Book of Acts in which the gift of languages was a sign to those who already believed and was used to demonstrate that those who spoke in various languages were the recipients of the holy spirit. The things spoken of in verse 22 and in the Book of Acts are not the same thing. The evidence for this difference in subject matter is found in the original Greek language. When the Greek meanings to the words of verse 22 are inserted, the real intent becomes crystal clear:
"Wherefore languages are for a sign [mark or indication], not for them that believe, but for them that believe not. But [inspired preaching or revelation of divine counsel] serves not for them that believe not, but for them that believe" (v22).
The First Part of Verse 22
"The gift of languages is not a mark or indication for people who believe, but for people who do not believe. . ." (Para.).
A review of what occurred on the Festival of Pentecost when the holy spirit was given to the first members of the early church confirms what Paul says in the first half of verse 22. Those who believed or were being called to repentance on the festival of Pentecost in 30 A.D. clearly understood the languages being spoken as the gospel was proclaimed, but those who were not being called did not understand. See Acts 2.
The Second Part of Verse 22
"But inspired preaching or revelation of divine counsel does not serve people who do not believe, but does serve people who do believe" (Para.).
The simple truth that Paul explained to the church at Corinth was that, if one had the ability to speak in foreign languages and this power was given through the holy spirit, it was to be used to preach the gospel in an evangelistic manner for the benefit of the church through teaching the truth of God. Clearly, this gift was not to be used as a display of intellectual vanity.
CONFUSION VERSUS ORDER
"If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with languages, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that you are mad?" (v23 KJV).
Paul says that for the church as a whole to speak in different languages at the same time would give the impression that those who spoke were insane. If this type of behavior was pleasing to God, why would the apostle Paul reprimand the Corinthians for their conduct? The Corinthians must have misunderstood or incorrectly practiced the spiritual gift of languages.
"But if all prophesy [if all speak divine counsels], and there come in one that believes not, or one unlearned, he is convinced [shown his sinful state] of all, he is judged of all" (v24 KJV).
The Taylor translation renders the phrase "He is judged of all" as "And his conscience will be pricked by everything he hears." This translation seems to be more logical; in that, it would serve no purpose for the congregation to pass judgment on an unbeliever unless the unbeliever were to be convinced of the truth by the preaching.
Verses 23-24 clearly show that Paul was instructing the Corinthians how to correctly conduct themselves in a formal worship service, especially before unbelievers. Moreover, he counseled them to teach things that would profit those who were unskilled in the truth and to give a testimony of that same truth to the unbeliever.
"And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth" (v25 KJV).
A more accurate translation of what Paul says here is as follows:
"The proper kind of teaching will result in people understanding their inner being and then be convinced they need to change and worship the true God. Because of this kind of proper conduct and teaching, they will also know that the Spirit of God dwells in you" (Para.).
"How is it then, brethren? when you come together, every one of you has a psalm, has a doctrine, has a language, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done to edifying" (v26 KJV).
Perhaps, Paul was being a bit sarcastic here when he asks this question, but perhaps not. However, the point remains that it seemed to Paul that everyone in the church wanted to be a preacher or teacher . The reprimand here is for all things to be done for the edification of the Church, which apparently was not the case in Corinth.
"If any man speak in a language 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" (vs.27-28 KJV).
At the time Paul wrote his letter, Corinth was a center of international commerce in which many cultures and languages were represented. In addition, Greek was the international business language and was spoken by almost everyone as a second language.
In verses 27 and 28, Paul gives very detailed instructions to multilingual speakers concerning how they should conduct themselves. He says that if any man is going to speak in multiple languages, he should not use more than two or three languages during his dissertation and he should not mix these languages as he speaks, but he should speak them consecutively. Paul further instructs the speaker to search out interpreters for these languages but if none can be found, the speaker should not speak to the church; instead, he should keep his thoughts between him and God.
Several times Paul addresses a need for an interpreter when someone is going to speak to the church in a language other than the one commonly spoken in that church. The reason for this is that, if a speaker is to transmit understanding, the hearer must be able to comprehend what is being said. How could the entire church benefit if the speaker were to expound some wonderful truth and no one could understand what he was saying?
The whole tone of Paul's instructions concerning multilingual preachers and teachers shows that there must be a logical, orderly progression of events whenever a speaker feels he has to use several different languages in order to express his thoughts to the church. It is evident that Paul was not advocating the practice of spontaneous outbursts of speaking in foreign or unknown languages, which is the common practice of many charismatic churches today.
Paul stresses order, not confusion. Order is the opposite of the normal scene in the charismatic tongues-speaking churches of today. The worship services of most of these charismatic churches are anything but orderly; disorder, pandemonium, and confusion with an abundance of uncontrolled emotionalism is the norm, not the exception within their worship services. In the following verses, Paul says that true Christians should conduct themselves in an orderly fashion as they preach and teach in worship services.
"Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. If any thing be revealed to another that sits by, let the first hold his peace. For you may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted" (vs.29-31 KJV).
Verse 32 is very important to understand because it leads directly to a major point that Paul wants to impress upon the Corinthians: "And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets" (v32 KJV).
An analysis of verse 32 should leave no doubt that uncontrolled behavior is strictly forbidden while those who are prophets (inspired speaker's) are speaking to the church.
The use of the Greek word 'pneuma' (English: spirit), which can mean 'air', 'breath', 'wind' or 'mind', does not change what Paul says. In fact, this word strengthens Paul's point that those who teach (inspired speakers) should be in control of themselves. The vast majority of charismatic tongues-speaking people today readily admit that they cannot control what they say when speaking in tongues. Clearly, they have no control over their actions and are in violation of the principle that Paul is expounding.
To make this point even more clear Paul said:
"For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints" (v33 KJV).
The Living Bible Paraphrased clearly translates the meaning of verses 29-33 and leaves no doubt about what Paul said:
"Two or three may prophecy, one at a time, if they have the gift, while all the others listen. But if, while someone is prophesying, someone else receives a message or idea from the Lord, the one who is speaking should stop. In this way all who have the gift of prophecy can speak, one after another, and everyone will learn and be encouraged and helped. Remember that a person that has a message from God, has the power to stop himself or wait his turn. God is not one who likes things to be disorderly and upset. He likes harmony, and he finds it in all the other Churches."
WOMEN TO KEEP SILENT IN CHURCH:
"Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted to them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also says the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church" (v 34-35, KJV).
Women should be silent during the church meeting. They are not to take part in the discussion, for they are subordinate to men as the scriptures also declare. If they have any questions to ask, let them ask their husbands at home, for it is improper for women to express their opinions in church meetings" (v 34-35, LBP).
Many cannot abide what Paul says to the women at Corinth because they have a wrong concept of God's government (Gal.3:28). Paul's statement has nothing to do with male chauvinism, as some believe. However, it does have to do with the order of things as they pertain to church leadership, government, and the particular functions of individuals within the church.
Paul commands the women to keep silent during the formal worship service. This is not a request; it is a command that is backed up by God's word. If chapters 12 through 14 are speaking of the same manifestation of the holy spirit that is noted in the Book of Acts, there is a major problem with what Paul says about women prophesying during worship services.
It should be noted, that the Creator God who became Jesus Christ chose only men to be a part of the Levitical priesthood and the apostleship. Moreover, the apostles ordained only men to the eldership. The only instances in which this principle of male leadership was violated, occurred when the males of Israel shirked their leadership responsibility. This definitely was not the case at Corinth, because men were in the positions of leadership.
Because the Bible presents a very narrow picture of what was going on within the Corinthian church, we do not know exactly what the problem with the women was. However, it appears that the 'speaking' that Paul refers to is a vocal disruption; however, what is clear is that some women in the church were not being orderly as specified in the teaching of the law (i.e., the Old Testament). Therefore, Paul had to point out that women must not speak out in a disruptive manner during worship services.
PAUL SPEAKS THE WILL OF GOD
"What? came the word of God out from you? or came it to you only? If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write to you are the commandments of the Lord. But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant" (vs.36-38, KJV).
"You disagree? And do you think that the knowledge of God's will begins and ends with you Corinthians? Well, you are mistaken! You who claim to have the gift of prophecy or any other special ability from the holy spirit should be the first to realize what I am saying is a commandment from the Lord himself. But if everyone still disagrees . . . well, we will leave him in his ignorance" (vs.36-38 LBP).
"Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with languages. Let all things be done decently and in order" (vs.39-40 KJV).
"So my fellow believers, long to be prophets so that you can preach God's message plainly; and never say it is wrong to 'speak in tongues' [languages]; however be sure that every thing is done properly in a good and orderly way" (vs.39-40 LBP).
There is very little order among those of the charismatic churches. In fact, their conduct is characterized by extreme confusion and chaos:
All these things are the opposite of order and the clear instruction of the apostle Paul and many others concerning the acceptable behavior for God's elect children.
THE WORD 'UNKNOWN'
Most Bible scholars will agree that the word 'unknown' is not in the original text of first Corinthians chapters 12 through 14. Some Bible scholars believe that, although the word 'unknown' is not in the original text, the Greek language infers that the language(s) being discussed is unknown. A very short study into the Greek language easily disproves such a theory.
It is interesting to note that although the word 'unknown' is recognized by Bible scholars as being out of place in these scriptures, almost all who analyze this subject try to incorporate it into their explanations of what these difficult scriptures mean. It would seem that, because the word is clearly a misrepresentation of the facts, it should be treated as such and should not be considered when explaining the intent of the verses, except to say the word has no value to the topic at hand.
THE CORINTHIAN WORSHIP SERVICE
The noted scholar J. B. Lightfoot believed that the language spoken of in chapters 12 through 14 was the ancient Hebrew tongue and he gives some historical facts that are difficult to challenge. However, whether or not his conclusions are correct is open to debate. However, his understanding of history is substantiated by historical documentation. He brings out the following points in reference to the worship service of the Jewish synagogues of Paul's day and how this could have influenced the Corinthian Church:
Because many of the Christians at Corinth were Jewish converts along with a few former priests of the synagogue, Lightfoot felt that the Corinthians more than likely patterned their worship services after the synagogue services. If Lightfoot is correct in his assumption, chapters 12 through 14 can more easily be understood and the language mystery more easily solved.
FALSE CHRISTS, DOCTRINES, AND SPIRITS
An in-depth study into the charismatic Christian religions shows that their activities are a far cry from the behavioral patterns of the early Christians. The unintelligible muttering and emotional displays of those indulging in speaking in unknown languages are not the acts of an orderly spirit.
Many adherents of the new charismatic religion claim that speaking in unintelligible languages is the prophetic evidence of a great spiritual awakening just prior to the end of the age and the return of Jesus Christ. However, such a claim cannot be supported by scripture. In fact, the scriptures show just the opposite is true.
"Behold the days come, says the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst of water, but of the hearing of the words of the Lord: And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it" (Am.8:11-12 KJV).
The apostle Paul warned that just before the end of the age, there would be very little of God's truth found in the world (2.Thes.2:1-11; 2.Tim.3:13). However, there will be widespread acceptance of many false doctrines that are in opposition to the word of God.
It is interesting to note that charismatic religions are becoming a unifying factor between many of the world's professing Christian and non-Christian religions as well as the occult and humanistic movements. However, charismatic practice of speaking in unintelligible languages does not fit within the guidelines Jesus gave to his Church. Perhaps this resurgence of these charismatic practices will be the unifying force that will bring about the 'super church' spoken of in the Book of Revelation.
SATAN DECEIVES THE WHOLE WORLD
"And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent called the Devil, and Satan, which deceives the whole world . . ." (Rev.12:9 KJV). See also Rev.2:9; 3:9.
It is very easy for people to accept the various deceptions that Satan has to offer, because the vast majority of this world's population, including most of professing Christianity, are already deceived and worship Satan's false religious system: "And no marvel for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light" (2.Cor.11:14).
However, it is difficult to deceive the elect of God if they will follow the scriptural instructions not to be led astray by every wind of doctrine and to test the spirits to see if they are of God or not (Eph.4:14).
BEWARE OF DECEPTION
Jesus warns: "For there shall arise many false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch that if it were possible, they would deceive the very elect" (Matt.24:24 KJV).
The last half of this verse would be more correctly rendered: "So as to mislead if possible, even the elect." Indeed, it is possible to mislead the elect of God. In order to avoid being led into a false teaching, a true Christian should study the scriptures diligently and prayerfully and be very cautious about accepting new doctrines by making sure that each new doctrine is backed up by biblical fact.
Paul also warned the Corinthians to be careful not to be led astray by those who preach another Jesus and another gospel: "But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ" (2.Cor.11:3).
Most charismatic Christian groups stress belief in the gospel message, but they disobey and deny almost every major aspect of this message.
Peter warns the elect to be aware of the spiritual wickedness that seeks to destroy the true Christian. And Paul warns about those who will depart from the faith because they are not careful about what they accept as truth:
"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil as a roaring lion walks about, seeking whom he may devour" (2.Pet.5:8 KJV).
"Now the spirit speaks expressly that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils" (1.Tim.4:1 KJV).
The apostles knew that many of the elect of God would leave the faith and accept satanic doctrines which would creep into the church because of the lack of attention and diligence to the truth of God. Therefore, they gave many warnings to the Church to be alert to dangerous doctrines. See 2.Cor.11:13-14; 1.Tim. 4:1-3,10; 2.Tim.4:3,10; Heb.1:7; 13:9; Eph.4:14; 2.Jn.10.
In order for Satan to counterfeit a biblical teaching, he must design his false teachings to closely resemble what is genuine, so it is extremely difficult to distinguish between the two. There is a tremendous danger in accepting doctrines that sound correct without first examining them with cold hard logic.
All of Satan's teachings sound good and are cloaked in the aura of spirituality. But they can easily deceive those who allow their emotions or intellectual vanity to influence their spiritual discernment. However, Satan's doctrines always have two major flaws:
1. They never harmonize with the entire Bible.
2. They always involve the breaking of one or more of God's laws, principles, or precepts.
With his ministers and doctrines, Satan, is very clever and can easily deceive those who are not constantly on guard against false ministers and doctrines:
"For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing for his ministers to be transformed into the ministers of righteousness. . ." (2.Cor.11:13-15 KJV). See also 2.Tim.3:6.
DECEPTIVE EMOTIONALISM AND EXPERIENCES
Almost all of those who believe in the charismatic practice of speaking in unintelligible languages will say they know it is of God because they have experienced it. However, very few can even begin to back up this experience with scriptural fact. The true Christian who is caught up in the euphoria of this type of charismatic practice should reflect on what the apostle James says:
"Nobody must imagine that he is religious while he still goes on deceiving himself and not keeping control over his tongue; any one who does this has the wrong idea of religion" (Jms.1:26, The Jerusalem Bible).
Charismatic adherents claim that when they speak in tongues they experience 'a euphoric feeling', 'an orgasmic emotion', 'tremendous power surging through the body'. Some people who practice speaking in tongues lapse into unconsciousness and have no ability to control their mind or body and they retain no memory of the event.
It is interesting to note that some of these same feelings and experiences of the charismatic practitioners are the same as some people experience who are under the influence of alcohol or mind-altering drugs.
Uncontrolled emotion is just that! It is uncontrolled, which is the opposite of controlled. Humans are emotional beings. Some exhibit more emotion than others, but some control their emotions rather than letting their emotions control them.
Paul says, "Be angry and sin not" (Eph.4:26). It is possible to control one's emotions just as Jesus did when he chased the moneychangers out of the temple. Uncontrolled emotion leads to all kinds of problems, such as sexual sins and violent acts against people and property.
"But speak you things which become sound doctrine:. . .. Sound speech that cannot be condemned . . ." (Tit.2:1,8 KJV).
"For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind" (2.Tim.1:7).
THE PSYCHOLOGY OF SPEAKING IN TONGUES
Because of the growing charismatic movement within the American Lutheran Church, a medical doctor and psychologist, a professor of the New Testament, and a clinical psychologist were asked to research the charismatic practice of speaking in unintelligible languages. What these three men initially discovered about this subject was so interesting to them that they launched a study into the subject that took ten years to complete.
In 1972 one of the three researchers, John P. Kildauhl, published the group's findings in a book entitled The Psychology of Speaking in Tongues. Their conclusions and findings closely fit some of the observations Paul noted in his letter to the Corinthians about this subject. The following are some of their findings and conclusions:
1. When charismatic speaking in tongues first begins within a group, the tongues issue becomes a dividing force that is never resolved peacefully and always leads to division and tension among those who practice speaking in tongues and those who do not.
2. The experience seems to be selfish and does not benefit the entire group as a whole.
3. People who were able to manifest this phenomenon had the following personality traits:
4. Those who did not or could not speak in tongues had just the opposite personality traits.
5. Individuals who spoke in tongues always seemed to imitate the group leader or the one who had introduced them to the movement.
6. The languages spoken were not true human languages as defined by linguistics, except when the person doing the speaking had a prior knowledge of a particular human language and then spoke it.
7. The activity was either induced by the hypnotic suggestions of the group leader or by the subconscious desire of the individual.
8. This phenomenon was a purely learned behavior, with the exception of a few cases which could be described as demonically influenced.
This study seems to indicate that there was nothing very spiritual about this phenomenon, but it seems to be a humanly generated source of enjoyment and comfort for its participants. However, it was just the opposite for the non-participant.
TEST THE SPIRITS WHETHER THEY BE OF GOD OR OF SATAN
The apostle John gives some extremely sound advise about teachings such as the charismatic practice of speaking in unintelligible languages:
"Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try [test or prove] the spirits whether they be of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world" (1.Jn.4:1).
The New English Bible translation:
"But do not trust any and every spirit, my friends; but test the spirits, to see whether they are from God, for among those that have gone out into the world, there are many prophets falsely inspired."
There are many examples in scripture of people being inspired by God's spirit. But there are also examples of people being inspired by evil spirits. "A company of prophets met him [Saul]; and the spirit of God came upon him and he prophesied. . ." (1.Sam.10:10). "And it came to pass on the morrow, that the evil spirit from God came upon Saul and he prophesied. . ." (1.Sam.18:10). Just because a person speaks eloquently and dynamically or even speaks truth does not necessarily mean that the spirit of God is inspiring them.
PROVE ALL THINGS
The elect of God are warned time and time again to always be alert to the dangers of false teaching and to prove what is right and good before accepting it as truth: "Prove [put to the test] all things; hold fast that which is good" (1.Thes.5:21 KJV).
Some people might take offense at the thought of testing the spirits for fear that they might show a lack of respect toward God. However, God instructs us through his word to test whether or not spirits are from him. If we test the spirits with the right attitude, we do not offend God, we please him. Moreover, we are doing what he tells us to do for our own good. To live a Christian life is not a child's game; it should be taken very seriously, because one's eternal life is at stake.
It would not be wise to say that God does not or will not give the supernatural ability to be multilingual in order to proclaim his good news message or to teach his truths to those he has called or will call to salvation. However, it is wise to test and prove if the spirit represented is of God or not. See Matt.24:24; 2.Cor.11:13-15; Eph.4:14; 1.Thes.3:6; 5:21; 1.Tim.4:1; 1.Pet.4:1; 1.Jn.4:1.
QUESTIONS TO ASK
If a person actually has the gift of multiple languages from God and is inspired by the spirit of God to use this ability, this person will also teach and practice the foundational truths of God.
In the vast majority of cases, the simple test of obedience to the law of God will reveal whether a spiritual influence is of God or not. The apostle John was inspired to say that if a person does not obey God, he is a liar and there is no truth in him (1.Jn.2:4).
However sincere a person might be in practicing their belief, sincerity is never a test of whether a person is guided by the spirit of God or not. Obedience to God is a test (1.Jn.2:4).
God does not give his spirit to those who oppose or disobey him (Acts 5:32). He also takes his spirit away from those who disobey his laws, precepts, and principles. Because the vast majority of those who practice speaking in tongues do not obey the most basic of God's laws, precepts, and principles (1.Jn.2:4; 3:22-24; 5:3), it is relatively certain that it is not the spirit of God that guides them. Moreover, one should be extremely wary of those who say they have a gift from God, but do not obey him. Paul reveals in 2.Thessalonians 2:5-11 that God will allow those who do not obey him to be greatly deceived by false doctrines.
THOSE WHO SEEM TO OBEY GOD
A second category of people that one might encounter practice speaking in tongues and outwardly practice many of the basic laws of God. Some of these people seem to have all of the spiritual fruits associated with those who are in obedience to the laws of God. Therefore, perhaps they fit into the same category as the people Paul was addressing in the Church of Corinth? If this is the case, there is a need for repentance, because they are in danger of losing their eternal lives.
Paul admonished, "Now we command you, brethren, in the name of Jesus Christ, that you withdraw yourselves from every brother that walks disorderly and not after the tradition which he received from us" (2.Thes.3:6 KJV). There is absolutely no historical tradition or indication in the Bible that gives credence to, authorizes, or in any way condones the gibberish and outlandish behavior of the charismatic speaking in tongues as proper behavior within the congregations of the true God.
Not everyone who has a charismatic experience is influenced by a good or an evil spirit. Some people are extremely emotional or become carried away by the excitement or intensity of the moment.
GUARD AGAINST BEING DECEIVED
It is extremely important for a true Christian to be able to determine the difference between the influence of good and evil to guard against being deceived by a false doctrine. The following are some examples of the use of multiple languages that are inspired of God and some that are not.
The Receipt of the Holy Spirit
The ability to communicate in a language other that one's native tongue may be given as evidence of initial receipt of the holy spirit. In these cases, there is no need for an interpreter, because those present will understand the languages (Acts 2:1-12; 10:44-48; 11:15-18; 19:1-6).
The ability to communicate in a language other that one's native tongue may be given for the purpose of proclaiming the true gospel. In these cases there is no need for an interpreter, because the people hearing will understand the language(s) being spoken (Acts 2:1-12; 10:44-48; 11:15-18; 19:1-6).
Formal worship and teaching services
A Wrong Spirit
The following are clearly behaviors that are not appropriate for the elect of God.
OTHER QUESTIONS TO ANSWER
There are many other questions that a true Christian should ask about the charismatic act of speaking in tongues that can help to give a clear picture of the spirit behind this practice and its dangers to one's eternal salvation:
It is repugnant for most true Christians to even consider the thought that God would send his spirit to control, manipulate, and possess their minds and deprive them of their free agency.
God tells us the very opposite. He says that he gives us his holy spirit so that we can exercise it and use it for good. He does not say that he gives us his spirit to control our actions. Clearly, from what the Bible says, the only beings that want to control and take over the minds of humans are evil spirits.
Throughout the scriptures, we find that God the Father wants those he calls to salvation to develop righteous character and strong sound minds which they can use to make correct decisions and judgments.
THE DESIRE FOR SPIRITUAL GIFTS
"If a man desires to be an overseer in the Church, he desires a good work" (1.Tim.3:1).
Any person who wants a spiritual gift should do some introspection and ask themselves why they want that gift. If one wants the gift for personal aggrandizement or purely selfish reasons, they are seeking the gift for the wrong reasons.
The apostle Paul says the reasons for spiritual gifts is to render service to the Church and for evangelism (1.Cor.12:7; 14:24; Eph.4:12-14). The correct ambition leads a person to accomplish good things for all.
Anyone who seeks the experience of speaking in an unknown language may truly find such an experience. However, this experience can also be spiritually fatal if it is not from God.
The apostle Paul warns Christians about the deceptions of those who follow Satan:
"Whose coming is after the workings of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all the deceptions of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie. That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness" (2.Thes.2:9-12 KJV).
Although speaking in tongues is predominately a quasi-Christian phenomenon, it is also found in other religions (Buddhism, Mormonism, Hinduism, Islam, and many other non-Christian religions). From a biblical point of view, there are no positive aspects of the charismatic practice of speaking in unintelligible languages. It has many negative aspects and does not fit any of the overall goals that are set forth for the elect of God. Any practice within the congregations of God that even remotely resembles the charismatic practice of speaking in tongues should be highly suspect as an invalid manifestation of the spirit of God, especially when one reflects on what has been shown in this study. The apostle Peter warns:
"Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the Devil as a roaring lion, walks [is walking] about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist steadfast in the faith" (1.Pet.5:8-9).
The following are the reasons that God gave the gift of languages on the Feast of Pentecost:
There is no indication that any of these individuals were seeking the experience of speaking in a language different from their own, which is done within charismatic religious groups today.
ACTS AND 1.CORINTHIANS
The following is a list of the major differences between the two biblical accounts of God's people speaking in foreign languages. Note the definite contrast between the two manifestations of this phenomenon. Because of this difference it should be obvious that these two accounts are not speaking of the same subject.
This list shows the following things about receiving the gift of the holy spirit and the supernatural ability to speak in languages other than one's native tongue:
1. From Sabbath to Sunday, pages 156 & 157. Samuel Bacchiocchi
2. Those Incredible Christians by Dr. Hugh J. Schonfield, Chapter 8, 'Post-War Reconstruction'
3. See the article on 'Jochanan Ben Zakkai' in the Jewish Encyclopaedia (Funk & Wagnalls).
4. Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 111.xi
5. See Jewish Encyclopedia under article 'Sanhedrin.' The Nazorean organization also had points of resemblance to that of the Essenes, another body which regarded itself as representing loyal Israel.
6. Epistle of Clement to James, prefacing the Clementine Homilies.
7. Schweitzer, Myusticism of St. Paul, p 156. CP rom xc. 25; Gal. Ii10, 11 Cor. vii-ix
8. Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 111.xii
9. Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 111.xxxii
10. Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 111.xxxv, Epiphanius, on weights and measures, xv.
11. Studies in The Four Gospels and The life of Christ by H.S.Miller M.A.
The Seduction of Christianity by Dave Hunt and T.A. McMahon Harvest House, Eugene, OR.
Trail of The Serpent, by Robert L. Preston, Keats Publishing. Inc.
Psychology of Speaking in Tongues, by John P. Kildaul, Harper & Row
Charismatic Gift of Tongues, by Ronald E. Baxter, Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI.
The Modern Tongues Movement, by Robert G. Gromacki, Th.D, Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing Company, Phillipsburg, NJ.
Hebrew and Talmudical Exercitations upon 1 Epist. Corinth, by Robert Grandell, p. 256-69, vol. 4, 1859).