The Controversy Over Speaking in Tongues
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 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 in their religious assemblies 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 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:
- Most people who study the tongues question attempt to justify their current belief on the subject.
- We are dealing with a subject whose history has all but been lost, with the exception of the biblical account.
There is a reason for everything God does, and so it is with the supernatural ability to speak in a foreign language. This study attempts to answer the following two questions about the gift of languages and give a logical biblically based explanation for the use of this supernatural gift:
- Is there a logical biblical explanation for why this gift was given, or must we wait for the return of Christ for an answer?
- Are the accounts found in Acts, chapter 2, and 1.Corinthians, chapters 12, 13 and 14, speaking of the same subject?
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 GIFT OF LANGUAGES
After Jesus Christ's ascension to his heavenly Father to be accepted as the first-fruits of the harvest of humanity, and during the Festival of Pentecost, the disciples and about 120 other followers of Christ gathered to observe the Feast of Weeks/Pentecost (Acts 1:12-15).
Some Bible Scholars believe the disciples and the others gathered in one of the large rooms or porches near the temple, which were available for public use. This may be true, because the temple area could accommodate over 200,000 people, and a large number of people heard those who had received the holy spirit speaking in foreign languages.
This meeting of the disciples and the other followers of Christ at the temple made it possible for Peter to speak to the large group of people who gathered after the event noted in Acts 2:2-4, of whom nearly three thousand accepted Christ as their savior. See Acts 2:41; 3:8-11; 5:12; Jn.10:23-25.
This particular Pentecost was an extremely important day for those gathered at the temple and for the rest of humanity. The fact that the disciples and the other followers of Christ were gathered together on Pentecost tells us that these individuals still felt the Feast of Weeks was to be celebrated. Otherwise, why else would they have been gathered together on the first day of the week, a day which would have otherwise been a normal work day? Why would they leave their homes, jobs, and other responsibilities unless this day was an observance which was still required as a part worshiping God?
"And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place" (Acts 2:1 KJV).
The English phrase was fully come is translated from the Greek word sumpleroo, which indicates a specific point in time. This Pentecost was not like any other Pentecost in history; this Pentecost was at a specific point in time set aside before the creation of the earth as the ending and the beginning of many things within God's plan for humanity.
In the Fullness of Time
Before this specific Pentecost, God the Father had sent his son to fulfill his plan for the redemption of humanity and to make it possible for humans to become a part of his heavenly family. This Pentecost was a day on which a large number of the prophetic first-fruits of the wheat harvest were adopted by the Father into his family.
"But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth his Son, having come out of a woman, having come under the law, that he might redeem the ones under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba! Father!" (Gal.4:4-6 Para.).
The Fire of God
"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 2:2-3 KJV).
No biblical or historical record of such an event can be found before the advent of Christ. Moreover, 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, which was performed at a specific moment in history for a specific purpose.
During this Pentecost, the fire of God descended upon those who were present. This was the fire of the spirit that was present when Moses met the Creator God at the burning bush. This was also the fire that descended upon Mount Sinai, upon the tabernacle, and upon the temple that Solomon built in order to show that the Creator God had placed his name and presence there.
It is important to understand that the fire of God consumes all things that are impure, because nothing impure can dwell in the presence of God. However, the people present with the disciples this Pentecost were not impure; they were chosen by God the Father to be among the first of humanity to partake of his divine nature. These individuals had been purified through the sacrificial blood of Jesus Christ; therefore, they were not destroyed by the power of God, which came to rest upon and within them.
Just as this fire descended upon the tabernacle and upon the temple that Solomon built, on this Festival of Pentecost, the spirit-fire of God descended upon the children of the New Covenant; thereby, the Father had placed his name and presence within a new Temple where he would meet with his people.
On this Pentecost, the place where it was necessary to formally worship God was changed from a physical building to a living temple of flesh. This is the hour Jesus spoke of when he told the woman of Samaria the hour would come when God's place of worship would be changed and people would be able to worship the Sovereign Father in spirit and in truth (Jn.4:19-24).
Tongues of Fire
The writer of Acts concisely relates the events on the first Pentecost after Christ's death and resurrection, which makes it difficult to determine exactly what it was that came to rest on those assembled with the apostles:
"When the Day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the holy spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the spirit enabled them" (Acts 2:1-4 NIV Para.).
The first thing to note in verse 3 is that the English words what seemed to be are translated from the Greek word hosei, which basically means as if, as (it had been, it were), like (as). The use of hosei, tells us that what was seen is something similar to fire, but not the same as fire.
The English word tongues in verses 3 and 4 is translated from the Greek word, glossa, which means the tongue; by implication, a language (specially, one not acquired naturally). The English word fire in verse 3 is translated from the Greek word pur, a primary word, which means fire (literally or figuratively, specifically, lightning):
If the writer intended to mean that what was seen was like the flames of a fire, he would have used the Greek word phlox, which means a flame or a blaze. Phlox would have clearly described what was seen as being fire, but this word was not used, which indicates that what was seen was something different.
The following is a more literal translation of the Greek language of Acts 2:3 from the Textus Receptus into English:
"There appeared divided languages like fiery lightning which sit on each of them."
An analysis of the Greek words used in the description of what appeared in verse 3 seems to indicate letters or words within fiery lightning coming to rest on these individuals, which resulted in their ability to speak languages other than their native language.
The Holy Spirit
As the fire from God rested on those whom the Father had chosen to become his children, the holy spirit began to reside within them, and they were transformed into the Father's spiritual children at that moment.
"They were all filled with the holy spirit and began to speak in foreign languages as the spirit gave them the gift of speech" (Acts 2:4-6 The Jerusalem Bible).
"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" (Acts 2:5-6 KJV).
This was the first proof that those people who were touched by the fire of God had indeed received the holy spirit and had been made a part of the Family of God. See Jn.14:21; 15:1-7; Rom.8:9-11; Gal.6:18; Phm.1:25.
Notice that all of the foreign languages spoken by these people were understandable to the listeners, without an interpreter. Perhaps this miracle was not only of speaking foreign languages, but also of understanding for those who were listening.
These Galileans were speaking in the particular dialects of those present:
"And how hear we every man in our own tongue [dialect] wherein we were born?" (Acts 2:8 KJV).
"How does it happen that each of us hears them in his own native languages?" (Acts 2:8 The Jerusalem Bible).
There are at least17 different language groups referred to in Acts, chapter 2. What was so astonishing to those present was the fact that each person heard the wonderful works of God spoken in his own particular language.
"We hear them speak in our language the wonderful works of God. And they were amazed and were in doubt, saying one to another, What does this mean? Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine" (Acts 2:11-13 Para.).
Many people clearly understood what was being said, whereas others apparently did not.
There is no doubt that, on this Day of Pentecost, both speakers and hearers were the beneficiaries of a special miracle from God. There was no incoherent speech, no unknown languages to decipher, no interpreters were needed—all those who were intended to understand the message, understood it clearly.
"But Peter, stood up with the eleven, and said to them, You men of Judea, and all you that dwell in Jerusalem, know this, and pay attention to my words: For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day [about 9 a.m.]" (Acts 2: 14-15 Para.).
Nine o'clock in the morning is a very important time because this is about the time that the Lift Offering of barley flour was made during the days of Unleavened Bread. The Lift Offering was symbolic of Jesus Christ as the first-fruits of God the Father's spiritual harvest of humanity.
Nine o'clock in the morning was also the time when the two leaven loaves of bread from the first-fruits of the wheat harvest were presented to God for his acceptance. In Acts 2:14-15, we see the acceptance of these individuals as sons of God by the imparting of the holy spirit; they were the first-fruits of the summer harvest of humanity.
Peter's Explains These Events
In order to explain why the disciples and the others with them had the ability to speak in languages foreign to them, Peter quotes the prophet Joel and says that this was being done in order to fulfill Joel's prophecy about events which would happen in the end of the age of human rule:
"But this is what was spoken of by the prophet Joel; 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 prophesy, 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 2:16-18 Para.). See Joel 2:28, 32; Isa.44:3.
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.
The events of this particular Festival of Pentecost were extremely important in the sequence of events which were necessary for the fulfillment of the Sovereign God's plan for humanity; because, on this particular festival, the prophetic and symbolic meaning of the leaven loaves of wheat bread offered to God on this feast day were fulfilled in those who received the holy spirit and adopted into the God the Father's spiritual family.
The giving of the holy spirit on this day of Pentecost was only the beginning of the prophecy of Joel; the last half of this prophecy will be fulfilled through the power of the spirit just before the first resurrection and return of Jesus Christ as King of kings and Lord of lords.
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:
- The dwelling place of God's Spirit was transferred from a physical building to human temples (1.Cor.3:17; 6:19; 2.Cor.6:16), which was evidenced by tongues of fire.
- The consummation of the New Covenant occurred (Jer.31:31-34; Heb.8:10).
- The gift of languages was used to preach the Father's good news message.
"Afterward he appeared to the eleven as they sat eating, and reprimanded them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe the ones who saw 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 (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 other than their native language and prophesied. This is also an example of a miracle of intelligent speech and discernible languages being used to show that God had given his spirit to these individuals and had separated them for a holy purpose.
The chart below shows that the only thing individuals who received the holy spirit in these accounts had in common was water baptism. Additionally, these accounts show the following:
- God the Father gives his spirit how he wants, to whom he wants, and when he wants.
- A person does not have to beg God for the holy spirit because he gives it freely to those who obey him.
- It is not necessary to repeat the name of Jesus over and over or any other repetitious words, chants, or incantations in order to receive the holy spirit.
- God the Father honored the ordinance of laying on of hands for the receiving of the holy spirit.
- Different situations required different signs to be manifested at that point in the history of the early church.
- The charismatic doctrine which states that no one can receive the holy spirit unless he speaks in a foreign or unknown language, and that speaking in these languages is the only evidence that one has the holy spirit is false.
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).
These three scriptures on page 329 show the following:
- God will give the holy spirit to those who ask.
- True repentance and water baptism are an integral part of receiving the holy spirit.
- The Father only gives his spirit to those who obey him.
LAYING ON OF HANDS AND FIRE
The accounts of Acts, 8:9-17, 9:1-18 chapters 10 through 11, and 19:6 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.:
- 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.
- 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.
- The wave Sheaf Offering offered during the Days of Unleavened Bread pictures the first of the first-fruits (Jesus Christ) being presented to God the Father.
- 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).
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 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.
Because 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 corrections. His first letter was almost totally devoted to a series of reprimands about 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 belief 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 to eat strong spiritual meat" (1.Cor.3:1-2 Para.).
Paul's reprimand to the 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's reprimanded the Corinthians for envy, strife, divisive 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 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:
- Paul was responding to reports that he had heard concerning activities within the Corinthian Church.
- He was not present to witness the practice of speaking in foreign languages by the Corinthians.
- Paul considered these activities to be major problems worthy of much discussion in his letter.
- If there had not been a major problem with speaking in foreign languages, these chapters probably would not exist in his letter of rebuke to the Corinthian congregation.
CONCERNING SPIRITUAL THINGS
"Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant" (1.Cor.12:1 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" (1.Cor.12:1 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" (1.Cor.12:2-3 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, 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" (1.Cor.12:4-7 KJV). See also 1.Cor.12:7-10, 28-31.
The English word gifts used throughout 1.Corinthians, chapter 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" (1.Cor.12:8-10 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 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" (1.Cor.12:11-12 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" (1.Cor.12:13 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?" (1.Cor.12:14-16 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" (1.Cor.12:17-18 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" (1.Cor.12:19-21 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" (1.Cor.12:22-23 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" (1.Cor.12: 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" (1.Cor.12:26 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]?" (1.Cor.12: 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 the Father 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).
All of the supernatural gifts in the following list are provided by the Father for the edification of the church as a whole.
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 who are being trained 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 lists of gifts show that these gifts were not a catalog of specific unchanging functions within the church. The supernatural gifts, which are listed by the apostle Paul, are all 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" (1.Cor.12:31 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" (1.Cor.13:1 Para.).
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" (1.Cor.13:2-3 KJV).
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" (1.Cor.13:4-7 KJV Para.).
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" (1.Cor.13: 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" (1.Cor.13:11 KJV).
What are these childish things? Are not all the things he reprimanded the Corinthians for, childish? None of the things Paul 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" (1.Cor.13:12 KJV).
Paul explains that a Christian cannot know everything about the spirit-realm of existence or about the Father's plan for his new creation. In fact, we understand very little about the spirit-realm 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" (1.Cor.13:13 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" (1.Cor.14:1 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 Father's elect children. 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" (1.Cor.14:2 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 God understands our every thought and emotion. Therefore, even if the one speaking understands what he is saying, he is 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" (1.Cor.14:3 KJV Para.).
Paul says 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" (1.Cor.14:4 KJV Para.).
If a man speaks in a language that only he understands, that person is 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 languages, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying" (1.Cor.14:5 KJV Para.).
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?" (1.Cor.14:6 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 benefitted them.
"Even things without life giving sound, whether flute 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 to the battle?" (1.Cor.14:7-8 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" (1.Cor.14:9-11).
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 [exercise] of spiritual gifts, seek that you may excel to the edifying of the church" (1.Cor. 14:12 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]" (1.Cor. 14:13 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" (1.Cor.14:14 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" (1.Cor.14:15 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?" (1.Cor.14:16 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" (1.Cor. 14:17 KJV). The only one edified is the one giving the prayer
IS THERE A PRAYER LANGUAGE?
Many people in charismatic religions believe they have a spiritual gift from God which 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.5:2-4.
This following 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 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 Para.).
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 this 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 Lord's 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 realm, 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?
"I thank my God, I speak with languages more than you all" (1.Cor. 14:18 KJV).
Why was Paul thankful that he was multilingual? The following are two plausible answers to this question:
- Paul not only spoke his native tongue, Aramaic, but also could read and speak many languages, including the dead language of ancient Hebrew in which the Hebrew scriptures were written. This ability gave him great credibility with the common Jews, as well as the priests, because only the most educated people could read and understand the Hebrew scriptures.
- Paul was the apostle to the non-Israelites, as well as the houses of Israel and Judah. Because his travels took him to many distant lands, he needed to know many languages in order to fulfill his commission to preach the gospel to those with whom he came in contact. More than likely the apostle Paul had the natural ability to speak many languages, as well as the spiritual gift of languages mentioned in the Book of Acts.
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" (1.Cor.14:19-20 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" (1.Cor.14:21 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" (1.Cor.14:22 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" (1.Cor.14:22).
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?" (1.Cor. 14:23 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 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" (1.Cor.14:24 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" (1.Cor.14:25 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" (1.Cor.14:26 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" (1.Cor.14:27-28 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 regarding 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" (1.Cor.14:29-31 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" (1.Cor. 14:32 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 violating the principle Paul explained.
To make this point even more clear Paul said:
"For God is not of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints" (1.Cor.14:33 NKJV).
The Living Bible Paraphrased clearly translates the meaning of verses 29-33 and leaves no doubt about what Paul wrote:
"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" (1.Cor.14:29-33 Para).
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" (1.Cor.14:34-35, 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" (1.Cor.14:34-35, 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., biblical law). 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" (1.Cor.14:36-38, 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" (1.Cor.14: 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" (1.Cor.14:39-40 LBP).
There is very little order among those of the charismatic churches. In fact, their conduct is characterized by extreme confusion and chaos:
- Both men and women speak out spontaneously during services, which is a practice that is condemned by Paul (1.Cor.14:27-29, 34,40).
- There is no formal request for an interpreter before they speak in languages that are not understood by the rest of the congregation—a practice condemned by Paul (1.Cor.14:28).
- They repeat meaningless sounds which are vain repetition—and forbidden by Jesus Christ (Matt.6:7).
- There are people falling on their backs, leaping, jumping, screaming, shouting, lapsing into unconsciousness, and exhibiting uncontrolled emotionalism.
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:
- Public prayers in the synagogue were made in the ancient Hebrew tongue, with the exception of one or two being made in Chaldee. Few people spoke and understood ancient Hebrew at that time.
- Those who taught or preached spoke only Hebrew, which was repeated to the worshipers by an interpreter.
- It was a disgrace for a woman to speak in the synagogue or to usurp any part of the ministerial office.
- Services were conducted in an orderly and worshipful manner.
Because many of the Christians at Corinth were Jewish converts along with a few former priests of the synagogue, The biblical scholar 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 the 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 easy for people to accept the various deceptions 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 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 spiritual wickedness that seeks to destroy them. 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" (1.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 a 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; 2.Tim.4:3-4; Heb.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:
- They never harmonize with the entire Bible.
- 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 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 KJV).
The English words sound mind in verse 7 are translated from the Greek word sophronismos, which is derived from a Greek word meaning discipline, sophronismos basically means self-control.
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:
- 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.
- The experience seems to be selfish and does not benefit the entire group as a whole.
- People who were able to manifest this phenomenon had the following personality traits:
- They were very susceptible to hypnosis.
- They were exceptionally dependent and submissive to authority figures.
- They were willing to be totally subjected to another person's will.
- They were very trusting of other people.
- Those who did not or could not speak in tongues had just the opposite personality traits.
- Individuals who spoke in tongues always seemed to imitate the group leader or the one who had introduced them to the movement.
- 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.
- The activity was either induced by the hypnotic suggestions of the group leader or by the subconscious desire of the individual.
- 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
The apostle John gives some extremely sound advice 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 are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world" (1.Jn.4:1 KJV).
"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." (1.Jn.4:1 NEBT).
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.5:21; 1.Tim.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 spirit-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 Issued the following reprimand to the elect at Thessalonica:
"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 than 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 language(s) (Acts 2:1-12; 10:44-48; 11:15-18; 19:1-6).Evangelism
The ability to communicate in a language other than 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
- If the truths of God are to be preached in a language foreign to those present, an interpreter must be present before the speaking, so that all who are there can benefit from what is said (1.Cor.14: 27-28).
- No more than two or three different multilingual speakers may speak during a formal assembly of the elect, and the languages must be spoken consecutively (1.Cor.14:29-33).
A Wrong Spirit
The following are clearly behaviors that are not appropriate for the elect of God.
- Uncontrolled babbling or use of unintelligible languages during formal worship services (1.Cor.14:23)
- The absence of an interpreter to interpret what is said when multiple languages are used by the speaker (1.Cor.14:28)
- Women preaching and teaching within a formal worship service (1.Cor.14:34-35)
- Disorderly conduct: yelling, screaming, vocalizing of repetitious meaningless sounds, unbridled emotion (1.Cor.14:23)
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:
- Does God the Father want to control and manipulate human minds or does he want each individual to control and develop a strong mind and character and be in control of their own mental processes?
- Who do we find possessing, controlling, and manipulating the minds of individuals in the Bible narrative? Does God do this or is it something that is done by evil spirits?
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 increase righteous character and self-control, with 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 desires a spiritual gift should do some introspection and ask themselves why they desire the gift. If one desires 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:
- The gift of languages was a witness of God's power to the speakers, as well as the hearers.
- This gift of languages was bestowed on entire groups of believers, not just on a single selected individual within these groups.
- In each case the holy spirit came unexpectedly and in the beginning of the person's Christian experience.
- The gift of languages was given to show that the people who received it were God the Father's earthly children.
- The gift of teaching the word of God (prophesy) was given along with the gift of languages.
- No interpreter was necessary for the hearers to understand what was being said by those who received the gift of languages.
- 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.
- There is absolutely no mention of any private or solitary manifestation of this gift other than Paul's reprimand to the Corinthians.
The following compares the accounts in Acts 2 and 1.Corinthians 12 and 14, which show the Father's children speaking in foreign languages.
Because of the differences between the accounts shown on page 362, it should be obvious that these accounts are not speaking of the same subject.
A careful analysis of the accounts in Acts, chapter 2, and 1.Corinthians chapters 12 and 14, reveal the following important information:
- The only common event that happened in the events shown in the accounts in the books of Acts and Corinthians is water baptism.
- Different signs were manifested for different people under different circumstances.
- A person who is called to salvation does not have to beg God for the holy spirit because he gives it freely to those who obey him.
- It is not necessary to repeat the name of Jesus or any other words, chants, or incantations over and over in order to receive the holy spirit.
- God honored the ordinance of laying on hands for the receiving of the holy spirit.
- A person does not have to speak in a foreign language to receive the holy spirit.
- The charismatic doctrine which says that no one can receive the holy spirit unless he speaks in a foreign or unknown language and speaking in these languages is the only evidence that one has the holy spirit is false.
- From Sabbath to Sunday, pages 156 & 157. Samuel Bacchiocchi
- Those Incredible Christians by Dr. Hugh J. Schonfield, Chapter 8, 'Post-War Reconstruction'
- See the article on 'Jochanan Ben Zakkai' in the Jewish Encyclopedia (Funk & Wagnalls).
- Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 111.xi
- 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.
- Epistle of Clement to James, prefacing the Clementine Homilies.
- Schweitzer, Mysticism of St. Paul, p 156. CP rom xc. 25; Gal. Ii10, 11 Cor. vii-ix
- Eusebius, Eccl. Hist.111.xii
- Eusebius, Eccl. Hist.111.xxxii
- Eusebius, Eccl. Hist.111.xxxv, Epiphanius, on weights and measures, xv.
- 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).
By B. L. Cocherell b10w21