DOES THE BIBLE TEACH SPEAKING IN TONGUES?
by Perry F. Rockwood
1. MARK 16 AND ACTS
THIS Bible study on the subject of tongues is one that will
bring much profit to the individual person as well as help unify
the body of believers. In the light of the special attention
being given these days to the work of the Holy Spirit in the
church and in the world, a clear understanding of the plain
teaching of the Word of God alone will enable us to properly
evaluate existing trends.
The Greek word translated "tongues" is the word "glossa" and
it is found about fifty times in the NewTestament. Sixteen times
it refers to the organ, the human tongue. Once, in Acts 2:3. it
is used of "cloven tongues like as of fire." All other times it
means known languages.
TONGUES WERE GIVEN AS A SIGN IN THE EARLY CHURCH.
Let us hear the words of our Lord as recorded in Mark
"And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach
the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is
baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be
damned. And these SIGNS shall follow them that believer, in
my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with
new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink
my deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall toy
hands on the sick, and they shall recover."
The word "sign" means "a miracle intended as a proof of
something else" (Webster). There are few believers today, if any,
who claim to have all of these five spiritual gifts. Others claim
to have some of them, especially the gift of speaking with
Our Lord promised that "signs shall follow them that
believe" and in the days that followed Pentecost we know that
signs did follow the believers. But we shall see that such signs
are not required today in order to manifest the power and reality
of God's Word among men.
THE PURPOSE OF TONGUES AS A SIGN IN THE EARLY" CHURCH.
In 1 Corinthians 1:22 Paul said: "For the Jews require a
sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom." The primary purpose of
signs was to confirm the Word of God and in particular, the
Gospel message. The infant church did not possess the completed
Scriptures as we do today. They did not have access to the Old
Testament like we do and the New Testament was not yet written.
We have both Testaments and the Author of them, the Holy Spirit
of God. If we do our part - "search the scriptures," "study to
skew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be
ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth" - and if we seek to
live by the Word and to obey it, we can know assuredly, without
miracles and signs, that the Bible is indeed the Word of God.
This teaching is clearly set forth in John 20:30-31: "And
many other SIGNS truly did Jesus in the presence of his
disciples, which are not written in this book: But THESE ARE
WRITTEN THAT YE MIGHT BELIEVE that Jesus Is the Christ, the Son
of God; and that believing ye might have life through His name."
When we turn to the Acts of the Apostles we find the word
"tongue" used for the first time in 1:19: "And It was known unto
all the dwellers at Jerusalem; Insomuch as that field is called
in their proper tongue, Academia, that is to say, the field of
blood." This word 'tongue' certainly means a definite,
understandable language of Jerusalem.
In Acts 2:1-11 we have the key scripture on "tongues" and
certainly in no wise can we say that tongues means anything but
Let us notice the persons who were present in the house
where they were sitting. In Acts 1:26 we have the 12 apostles
mentioned and without a doubt they were there. Acts 1:15,16
mentions one hundred and twenty "men and brethren". They might
possibly have been present although it is doubtful if 120 could
be in the house unless they were in different rooms.....
Here in Acts 2 we are told: "every man heard them speak in
his own language" (vs.6). Certainly the "other tongues" must mean
"other languages." Sixteen different nationalities are named as
hearing in their own languages the wonderful works of God. Notice
it definitely states: "How hear we every man in our own tongue,
wherein we were born" (vs.8). This was not an unknown tongue or
even an unknown language for the people could hear the message
from God in their own language so that they could carry the
message home with them in order to share it there with others.
This was no 'spiritual language' or 'heavenly language' but
the language of the peoples who were there to hear the Word of
It is important to notice here at Pentecost that this was
the entrance of the Holy Spirit into God's people in fulfillment
of Christ's promise to send the Comforter. This was a
once-for-all experience. This was like Christ's coming into this
world by being born in a manger through Mary and the Holy Spirit.
We do not pray for another incarnation for Christ came but once
to do His Father's will. We do not pray for another Pentecost for
it was an historical experience that is not to be repeated.
The next important use of the word 'tongues' in Acts is
found in chapter 10:44-47: "While Peter yet spake these words,
the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of
the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came
with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the
gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues
(languages) and magnify God. Then answered Peter, Can any man
forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have
received the Holy Ghost as well as we?"
Here we have Cornelius, his kinsmen, and near friends (vs.
24) gathered together. The purpose of these Gentiles speaking in
other languages was to further convince Peter and the other Jews
that the new birth baptism of the Holy Spirit was for Gentile as
well as Jewish believers. "God is no respecter of persons". The
"tongues" spoken by these Gentile believers were languages
because Peter and the other Jews present "heard them speak... and
magnify God." Peter explains this in Acts 11:15: "And as I began
to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning
In Acts 19: 1-20 we have a record of the opposition and
difficulties Paul had to meet at Ephesus. Here our Lord confirmed
Paul's preaching with "special miracles" and signs and wonders
and judgments, using the tongues-sign. Here were about twelve men
(vs.1-7) who spake in other languages so there were no women
speaking in tongues in this instance.
These twelve men knew only of John's preaching and baptism
and were ignorant of the baptism of the Holy Spirit as had
already occured at Pentecost. So God confirmed to them the same
experience as He did to those at Pentecost and as He did at
Conelius' house. There were many languages found in Ephesus so
the speaking in other languages confirmed Paul's preaching.
As far as the Book of Acts is concerned "tongues" refers to
languages understood by those present at the time. There were no
interpreters. But notice that tongues are mentioned only in
reference to the three groups mentioned above. (1) Acts 2, Jewish
believers. (2) Acts 10, Gentile believers. (3) Acts 19, John the
Baptist's disciples. Now altogether at least sixteen groups are
mentioned in Acts but tongues is spoken of only in relation to
three groups. The Book of Acts relates the conversion or spir-
itual experience of fourteen individual persons but not one of
these is said to have spoken with tongues. If tongues were a
necessary part of salvation or an indication of the baptism of
the Holy Spirit then certainly the Word of God would declare
tongues to be a universal necessity in such great spiritual
It is so hard today to get people to search the Scriptures
and to follow the Scriptures. So many want to go by the
experiences of others. We cannot build our spiritual lives upon
experiences. We must build upon the one true foundation which is
the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no teaching in the Book of Acts
to indicate that believers today should have an experience of
speaking with tongues.
2. 1 CORINTHIANS 12
PAUL'S First Epistle to the Corinthians was written to
correct certain errors that crept into the church at Corinth.
This local assembly was carnal and immature. As spiritual babes,
they were unable to receive the "meat" of the Word and so were
fed on "milk". Paul clearly condemns their carnal practices and
childish sectarianism. He had not set all disorders in the church
aright, but he dealt with the things of supreme importance. In
Chapter 11:34 he said: "And the rest will I set in order when I
Now chapters 12, 13 and 14 all deal with the tongues
confusion that brought disrepute to the church. I believe God
will bless our study of these three chapters.
Let us read Paul's words to the believers in Corinth as
found in Chapter 12:1: "Now Concerning spiritual gifts, brethren,
I would not have you ignorant (not knowing, unintelligent)".
These believers were Gentiles led away by "dumb idols" (voiceless
gods), and they were seeking to carry over into their Christian
faith some of the hyper-emotional experiences of their Gentile
Verse 3 shows the extremes to which the tongues disorder had
brought them: "Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man
speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no
man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost" Their
most common expression was "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus," while they
rejected His Lordship and authority. The Bible teaches not only
"Jesus" but the "Lord Jesus" or the"Lord Jesus Christ." ... In
verse 4 we have the Holy Spirit. In verse 5 we have the Lord
Jesus Christ. In verse 6 we have God the Father.
"Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit" (vs.
4). The Holy Spirit manifests Himself in different ways
throughout the church. We do not all have the same gifts,
therefore it is not necessary for all to manifest the same gifts.
We have been chided at times by Christians who believe that if we
do not speak in tongues we do not have the power of the Holy
Spirit upon our lives. Many of these people are well-meaning and
sincere. But in testing a work of the Spirit, sincerity is not
the standard of genuineness. Nor is experience the final judge of
reality. Every experience and every claim must be able to stand
the scrutiny of the Word of God. The Bible teaches the
"diversities" of gifts.
"And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord"
(vs. 5). The administrations refer to the proper use of these
gifts as they are brought in subjection to the Lordship of
"And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God
which worketh all in all" (vs.6). The operations refer to the
power or the equipment for service. So then we have the gifts,
the capacities for service; the administrations, the
opportunities for service; and the operations, the power for
service. All of these must be in subjection to God: to the Holy
Spirit who bestows the gifts, to the Son who arranges the
service, and to the Father who enables those who receive the
gifts to exercise them for His glory.
"But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to
profit withal" (vs.7). Gifts of the Spirit are not given for show
or to direct the attention of other people to ourselves or to
bolster pride by believing we have something others do not have.
Spiritual gifts are always given for the profit of others.
In verses 7-10 Paul sets forth these various gifts of the Holy
Spirit. (1) The gift of wisdom. This was given especially to help
believers to understand the plain teachings of the Bible. (2) The
gift of knowledge. This had a direct bearing on God's plan and
will and was needed while the New Testament was still unwritten.
(3) Works of faith. This is not saving faith; it is operational
faith in the Christian life, such as was given to George Mueller,
for example. (4) The gift of healing. God is able to heal the
body according to His will. (5) The gift of miracles. Various
signs and wonders through the working of the Holy Spirit. (6) The
gift of prophecy enabling believers to understand God's program
for the ages. (7) The discerning of spirits to enable believers
to distinguish between the workings of the Spirit of God and the
spirits that come from the Devil. (8) The gift of tongues. The
word for "tongues" literally means "the languages spoken by men."
(9) The interpretation of tongues.
Now although the bestowment of tongues was one of the least
of all the gifts, the Corinthian believers made it their first
interest. Not only that, but they tested the spirituality of
other believers by asking, "Do you speak in tongues?" If the
answer was "No", then they considered such believers as inferior
Christians, lacking the Holy Spirit's power upon their lives.
Verse 11 says: "But all these worketh that one and the selfsame
Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will." We see here
that "sign-gifts" are always given according to the will of the
Holy Spirit and they were to be exercised humbly in serving God
and in ministering to one's fellowman.
Let us now notice that the speaking with different languages
has nothing to do with the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Verse 13:
"For by one Spirit are we ALL baptized into one body, whetherwe
be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been
ALL made to drink into one Spirit." This verse clearly teaches
that ALL believers are baptized by the Spirit. But we will see
that the same Bible in this same chapter, teaches that ALL
believers do not have the gift of tongues. Therefore it is not
necessary for ALL believers to speak with tongues as the initial
evidence of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.
Forty days after His resurrection, Christ ascended into
Heaven and was glorified. Ten days later, in accordance with His
promise in John 7:38,39, the Holy Spirit CAME and all believers
there present were baptized into one body. We, likewise, are
baptized by the Holy Spirit into that same body the moment we
receive Christ as our own personal Saviour. (and I shall add, are
baptized in water - Keith Hunt). At that time, the Holy Spirit
comes into our lives to indwell us forever. This does not mean
that the Holy Spirit has full possession of us all the time. We
need a daily filling and are commanded in Ephesians 5:18 to: "...
be filled (to keep on being filled) with the Spirit" Oh, how we
need such a filling and blessing and anointing in our day! But
this has nothing to do with speaking other languages. It has
everything to do with holy living and power for service.
Paul makes it clear in verses 29 and 30 that all believers
were not expected to speak with tongues and all were not expected
to interpret. "Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all
teachers? are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of
healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?" Obviously
What is the logical, simple answer to each of these
questions? "Are all apostles?" No, of course all are not
apostles! As a matter of fact there are no apostles today in the
strict Bible sense of the Word. "Are all prophets?" The answer is
surely, No. There are very few, if any, true Bible prophets
today. "Are all teachers?" No, all are not teachers. But I do
believe we need more teaching of the Bible in our nation today.
"Are all workers of miracles?" No. "Do all have the gifts of
healing?" No. "Do all speak with tongues?" The answer is still,
No. "Do all interpret?" Again there is only one answer, No.
Lord Wolseley once said of Stonewall Jackson: "He inspired
his soldiers with an unquestionable belief in him as their
leader; they did not ask him where he was going, they were
content to follow." Fundamental believers maintain the same
attitude towards the Word of God. We want to follow the plain
teaching of the Bible rather than the teachings and commandments
Paul concludes this 12th chapter of 1 Corinthians with these
words in verse 31: "But covet earnestly the best gifts:" We want
God's best gifts. It is wrong to say we must receive God's least
before we receive His greatest. It is wrong to seek God's least
gift because it is not intended for all believers. The Bible
teaches us to covet earnestly the best gifts.
It is scripturally wrong to give more attention to the Holy
Spirit than to Christ. Jesus said in John 15:26: "He shall
testify of me": and in John 16:14: "He shall glorify me"; and in
John 16:13: "He shall not speak of himself." So the gifts and
blessings of the Holy Spirit will always turn our attention to
the glory and honor and praise of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Perhaps some of you are unbelievers who are looking for a
sign or some special spiritual experience before you are willing
to believe the Bible. There is only one way to be saved and that
is to accept the clear teaching of God's Word. Our blessed Lord
Jesus said: "He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that
sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into
condemnation; but is passed from death unto life" (John 5:24).
Will you come today on the basis of God's Word and receive
Christ as your own personal Saviour?
3. 1 CORINTHIANS 13
THIS chapter, usually referred to as "The Love Chapter" is
really "The Tongues Chapter". It is found between the two
chapters that deal primarily with tongues and has vital teaching
on this subject.
Paul, after making clear that all believers do not speak
with tongues, concluded 1 Corinthians 12 with these words: "Are
all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers
of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with
tongues? do all Interpret? But covet earnestly the best gifts:
and yet show I unto you a more excellent way" (vss.30-31).
Now chapter thirteen is a continuation of chapter twelve. It
sets forth the preeminence of love in the believer's life in
relation to the gifts of the Spirit. The real test of all the
gifts of the Holy Spirit is whether or not they promote love
among believers. So Paul tells us clearly: "And though I have the
gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all
knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove
mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing." (Read carefully
Not only does this chapter teach us that love must be
preeminent in all gifts of the Spirit, but it also teaches that
love and love alone will last forever. Verse 8: "Charity (love)
never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail;
whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be
knowledge, it shall vanish away." Notice four things here: (1)
Love never faileth. (2) Prophecies shall fail. (3) Tongues shall
cease. (4) Knowledge shall vanish away.
In relation to prophecies and knowledge the same Greek verb
is used and means "shall vanish away " or "shall be done away" or
"to abolish." The same word is used inverse 11: "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 (abolished, made
void) childish things." In maturity, that is spiritual maturity,
we no longer need the things that pertain to childhood. As we
have already seen in our last study, the speaking in tongues took
place during the childish life of Corinthian believers and have
no part in the life of spiritually mature believers.
In verse 9 we read: "For we know in part, and we prophesy in
part." This is the prophecy and the knowledge that was given
before the completion of the New Testament scriptures. It has
nothing to do with general knowledge that is attained from
classrooms in schools and colleges. "But when that which is
perfect is come (the completed revelation of the scriptures) then
that which is in part shall be done away." Both prophecy and
knowledge are superseded by that which is perfect - the Holy
Verse 8 deals with the matter of tongues: "Whether there be
tongues, they shall cease." After the outbreak of the tongues
heresy in the church at Corinth there is no further evidence in
the Bible that tongues were a part of the church gifts. This can
be shown by the following facts.
1. Paul did not refer once to tongues after writing his Epistle
to the Corinthians.
2. Peter, James, John and Jude all wrote their epistles after the
First Epistle to the Corinthians was written and not once do they
refer to tongues. Not even in the last book, the Book of
Revelation, are tongues mentioned.
3. While 1 Corinthians 13 tells us that prophecies, knowledge,
and tongues fail or cease or vanish away, it also tells us that
three other things abide - faith, hope and charity (love) (vs.
13). Some things cease. Some things abide.
But let us notice that even faith and hope will not abide
for ever. They will abide only until the rapture (the
resurrection, the rapture, as most fundamentalists teach it is a
huge error - Keith Hunt) of the church for faith will give way to
sight and hope will give way to realization.
Our Lord said to Thomas: "Because thou hast seen me, thou
hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have
believed." The day is coming when faith will give place to sight
and we shall see our blessed Lord as He is, and we shall be like
Him. Faith will end at the Rapture (resurrection of the saints -
Keith Hunt) of the church but it continues throughout this church
Hope will also end at the Rapture (resurrection at Christ's
visible and glorious return - Keith Hunt) Romans 8:24: "For what
a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?" Now we hope for Christ's
return. We long for the blessings that His return will bring. But
when He does return we shall have the fact of His presence and
hope will give way to realization.
But love is the greatest of all for it is eternal. It never
vanishes. "Charity (love) never faileth" (verse 8) for love is as
eternal as God.
4. Paul wrote to the mature Ephesians setting out God's provision
for the church. He listed in Chapler 4:11 the "gifts" for use in
the ministry of the church and tongues are not mentioned: "And he
gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists;
and some, pastors and teachers." Now notice the purpose for which
these gifts were given. Verses 12-15: "For the perfecting of the
saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the
body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and
of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the
measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we
henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried
about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and
cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But
speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things,
which is the head, even Christ."
Here Paul makes it clear that we are to speak the truth in
love not in tongues.... We have only one authority by which we
can become mature believers and that authority is the Word of
Everything we have and everything God wants us to have is
found in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is through the working and
blessing of the Holy Spirit that we are brought into the
overflowing, abundant life and given power for service. He exalts
Christ who is our all in all. By daily submission, consecration
and obedience to the Holy Spirit, we can know the fulness of the
Godhead in our lives. How wonderful! God grant us this blessing!
4. 1 CORINTHIANS 14
THE 14th chapter of Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians
deals primarily with a tongues heresy that brought dishonour to
God. This church at Corinth had all the earmarks of carnality,
worldliness, and spiritual immaturity and was the only church
where speaking in tongues was practiced.
The church at Corinth was a church of many problems: (1) It
was characterized by divisions (1:11-13). (2) The believers were
carnal and not spiritual (3.1-11). (3) They were baby Christians
still feeding on the milk rather than on the meat of the Bible
(3:2). (4) Some of them were puffed up and offended with Paul
(4:18). (5) There was fornication among them, a man living in sin
with his stepmother and the church defending him (ch. 5). (6)
Believers went to law one against another (6:1-8). (7) Some ate
meats offered to idols which caused others to stumble (ch.8). (7)
Some came to the Lord's Supper drunk and there were other
scandals connected with the Lord's Supper (11:17-21).
In the light of the terrible spiritual condition of these
believers at Corinth, it is not hard to believe why they were
involved in a tongues heresy.
If we read this chapter carefully it teaches us not how to
speak in tongues but how not to speak in tongues. It encourages
us to seek other gifts rather than the gift of tongues. It also
teaches us that not ALL speak in tongues and therefore tongues
cannot be the sign of the baptism of the Holy Spirit for "By one
Spirit are we ALL baptized into one body" (1 Cor.12:13).
Let us notice that the word "unknown" is not found in the
original but has been placed in italics, by the translators. The
word 'tongue' in the Bible means foreign language. At Pentecost
the Spirit-filled disciples were given the gift of speaking in
some sixteen different languages of sixteen different
nationalities who were there present. These foreigners heard the
disciples speak "in our own tongue wherein we were born." The
languages there spoken were not unknown tongues but foreign
languages known and used by people and understood by them when
spoken by the disciples at Pentecost.
If this gift is still for us today, then the important
question comes to mind: Why do missionaries whose lives are
dedicated to God have to spend years learning the language or
languages of the people whom they serve?
In 1 Corinthians 14:1-5 Paul shows that speaking in a
foreign language in the church was not edifying to the church but
was directed only to God. Those who spoke in another language
were actually selfish, "edifieth himself" (vs.4). The gift
believers should really seek after is the gift of prophecy which
was being neglected in the Corinthian church. They sought
primarily for the less important gift of tongues. In fact, they
were judging one another's spiritual state by asking, "Do you
speak in tongues?" To them, this was the most important thing
while to the Holy Spirit it was of the least importance.
We have heard people say, "Well, you have to seek the least gift
before you receive the greatest gift." But Paul clearly teaches
that ALL do not speak in tongues and therefore all are not to
seek the lesser gift. All believers, however, are to seek after
the gift of prophecy, so that the church as a whole might be
From verses 6-11 we have the plain teaching that any
speaking we do in the church must be easy to be understood by
all: "Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues,
what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by
revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine?
And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp,
except they give a distinction (difference) in the sounds
(notes), how shall it be known (by tune) what is piped or harped?
For if the trumpet give an uncertain (indistinct) sound, who
shall prepare himself to the battle? So likewise ye, except ye
utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be
known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air. There are,
it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them
is without signification (its own meaning). Therefore if I know
not the meaning of the voice (language), I shall be unto him that
speaketh a barbarian (foreigner), and he that speaketh shall be a
barbarian unto me."
Every language has a clear meaning that can be understood;
so all speaking in the church should be clearly set forth by
languages that can be understood. "Even so ye, forasmuch as ye
are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the
edifying (upbuilding) of the church" (vs.12). How selfish you are
to seek the gift of speaking in other languages when such
speaking will not be understood by the church and will not build
up the church.
Then Paul goes on to point out that if someone does speak in
a foreign language in the church there must be an interpreter
(vs.13). The Bible gives a definite order for speaking in foreign
languages and if this order is not followed then it is not
according to the Word of God.
Verse 27: "If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be
by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one
Verse 28: "But if there be no Interpreter, let him keep
silence In the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God."
You know as well as I do that tongues are spoken in some
churches time and again without an interpreter. You also know
that oftentimes several people are speaking at one time. God does
not contradict His Word and therefore any practice that does not
agree with the Bible cannot be of God.
Another evidence that Paul was speaking about ordinary
foreign languages is found in verse 18: "I thank my God, I speak
with tongues more than ye all." Paul had no gift of unknown
tongues. When Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit first in Acts
9:17 there is no mention of speaking with tongues. Paul wrote
fourteen of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament and there
is never a mention of him speaking with tongues. Paul was an
educated man and could speak in other languages, certainly in the
Koine Greek as well as the Aramaic language. He was preaching
over the entire Roman Empire and spoke more often in a foreign
language than any believer in Corinth. (And Paul had no doubt the
gift of speaking in different langues to preach the gospel to
different nationalities of peoples - Keith Hunt). Paul tells us
further: "Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my
understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than
ten thousand words in an unknown tongue" (verse 19).
Verse 22: "Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them
that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying
serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which
Two different Greek words are used here for those who
believe and those who believe not. For those who believe the word
"pisteuo" is used which means "full of confidence and trust."
Those who believe not have the word "apistos" which means
"without confidence or doubters." This verse tells us then that
tongues are fore sign, not to them who fully trust the Lord but
to them who still doubt.
Thomas was such a doubter. Jesus said to Thomas in John
20:27 "... and be not faithless (apistos, a doubter) but
believing." Thomas was saved but he was not willing, at that
time, to believe God's Word and the testimony of the other
disciples. Jesus said to him in effect that this is not the way
to live. "Be not faithless (be not a doubter)." In John 20:29 we
read: "Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me,
thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet
This explanation helps us to understand why the tongues
heresy was found in the Corinthian church and in no other. This
was a baby church that believed not the plain teaching of the
Bible. 1 Corinthians 14:20: "Brethren, be not children in
understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in
understanding be men." Don't remain babies all your life. Paul
has the same thought in mind in 1 Cor.13:11: "When 1 was a child,
I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a
child; but when 1 became a man, I put away childish things." One
characteristic of childish believers is that they do not wish to
live by the plain teaching of the Bible. They want, like Thomas,
to see before they believe. We are to believe the Word of God
without any other evidence if we are to mature in the Lord....
Paul does not forbid the speaking with languages in the
church. But it must be according to the guidelines of Scripture.
It must be done decently and in order.
Verse 37: "If any man think himself to be a prophet, or
spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto
you are the commandments of the Lord. "The Lord Jesus Christ is
our all in all and we need to be taken up with Him. When we allow
the Holy Spirit His rightful place in our lives, our hearts will
be satisfied and we will not seek after other experiences. Let
each of us today receive from the Lord by His Spirit what He has
for us. "Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have
believed" (John 20:29).
No date is given on this study paper. It has been in my files for
a few decades.
Entered on this Website February 2008