What About Speaking in Tongues?
Immanuel Baptist Church – August 23, 2020
Do you speak in tongues?
Do you suddenly and miraculously
speak in foreign languages
that you never studied or heard before?
Do you have a “prayer language”
that no one else can understand?
Are the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit
Few topics are as controversial
among Bible-believing Christians.
Some, who call themselves “cessationists”
insist that the miraculous gifts like speaking in tongues
were only for the Church in its infancy,
during the First Century.
They say such manifestations in churches today
either the product of runaway emotions,
or the work of the devil.
On the other hand, among Pentecostals and charismatics
who practice speaking in tongues,
the view often prevails
that believers who lack such experiences
are missing out on the full Gospel message
and have sort-of a ‘second-class’ walk with the Lord.
One deacon from a charismatic church ridiculed
my Baptist worship service.
He laughed, and said to me,
“Three hymns and a sermon—
You call that worship!?”
A charismatic pastor was less severe
when he told my wife that she was missing out
in her walk with the Lord.
He said to her, “It’s like you’re driving a Ford,
when you could be driving a Cadillac.”
And an acquaintance of mine who was in ministry
urged me repeatedly to receive
what he called “the baptism in the Holy Spirit”
so that I could speak in tongues
and have more power
in my walk with God.
The controversy can become heated at times.
I recall being the guest speaker on religious cults
at an evening program that drew a packed crowd
from a number of different churches.
People came up to me after the service to ask questions
or to share their own experiences,
but I noticed a few young men
involved a heated discussion
toward the back of the hall.
Soon they all came up to me
and wanted me to settle their dispute.
It soon became clear that some of them were
and some of them were charismatics or Pentecostals.
The fundamentalists wanted me
to declare the charismatics to be a cult,
while the charismatics wanted me
to say the fundamentalists
lacked the full Gospel experience.
I wouldn’t do either,
so I think both groups ended up mad at me.
But many Christians never
come face-to-face with this controversy,
because they attend a church
that takes a stand on the issue,
one way or the other,
and everyone in their church
feels the same way about it.
Or, they avoid the topic among friends,
to keep from causing hard feelings.
Where did this controversy come from?
And what does the Bible say about it?
There’s no doubt that, back in the First Century.
God miraculously caused some Christians
to speak in tongues—foreign languages
that they never learned.
Before he ascended to the Father in heaven,
our Lord Jesus told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem
until he clothed them with power—
until he baptized them with the Holy Spirit.
He did that around 50 days after his death and resurrection
on the Jewish holiday of Pentecost—
the word Pentecost meaning 50th—
the 50th day after Passover.
And when our Lord clothed the disciples with power
by baptizing them with the Holy Spirit,
he had them speak in tongues as part of
the outward manifestation of that miracle.
Let’s turn to the 2nd Chapter of Acts,
where we find the events of that day
recorded by the Gospel writer Luke,
who also wrote the book of Acts.
In the previous chapter Luke told how 120 disciples,
including the 12 Apostles,
kept meeting together for prayer in an upper room.
Then at Acts 2:1 he says,
1 Now when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 Suddenly there came from the sky a sound like the rushing of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.
This loud sound certainly got everyone’s attention.
Many translations say it came from “heaven”
while others say from “the sky.”
It was not a normal, earthly wind.
And the sound filled the house, indoors, besides outdoors
which was also unusual.
But then even more amazing things began to happen:
3 Tongues like fire appeared and were distributed to them, and one sat on each of them. 4 They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other languages, as the Spirit gave them the ability to speak.
So, the tongue of flame over each one’s head
was accompanied by the miraculous ability
to speak in other tongues, or languages.
They were all filled with the Holy Spirit,
but that’s something you can not see,
so the Lord gave these visible and audible signs
to show that the disciples
were baptized in the Holy Spirit.
The flaming tongues of fire over their heads
and the foreign languages
that they could miraculously speak—
these were visible proofs
of the Holy Spirit baptism they underwent.
Now, this speaking in tongues was not gibberish.
It was not just meaningless sounds.
They were speaking real foreign languages,
just as if you had opened your mouth to speak
and the words came out in Russian or Chinese,
This is clear from the fact
that foreign visitors to Jerusalem
were able to understand them.
Jews from all over the world
were visiting in Jerusalem that day
for the Jewish holiday of Pentecost.
Acts 2:5 goes on to say,
5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under the sky. 6 When this sound was heard, the multitude came together, and were bewildered, because everyone heard them speaking in his own language. 7 They were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Behold, aren’t all these who speak Galileans? 8 How do we hear, everyone in our own native language? 9 Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and people from Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, 10 Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, the parts of Libya around Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabians: we hear them speaking in our languages the mighty works of God!” 12 They were all amazed, and were perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?”
So, this miraculous manifestation of the Holy Spirit
was not just for the disciples themselves,
but was also to benefit a wider audience.
The miraculous sound of a rushing, mighty wind
that preceded the speaking in tongues,
was evidently heard in the streets outside,
and drew a crowd.
And, as the crowd came together,
these Jews from various different countries
all heard the Galilean disciples
speaking “the mighty works of God”
in each visitor’s native language.
That generated tremendous excitement and interest.
As the account mentions later,
the crowd in the streets attracted by this phenomenon
grew into the thousands.
Everyone wanted to know what this was all about.
Well, almost everyone.
Verse 13 tells us some people dismissed the whole thing,
assuming the disciples were drunk.
13 Others, mocking, said, “They are filled with new wine.”
But Peter and the other Apostles knew
what they were supposed to do
with this opportunity to address a large crowd.
14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and spoke out to them, “You men of Judea, and all you who dwell at Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to my words. 15 For these aren’t drunken, as you suppose, seeing it is only the third hour of the day. 16 But this is what has been spoken through the prophet Joel:
After getting the attention of the large crowd in the streets
Peter spoke to them,
evidently from a window or balcony
in that upper room overlooking the street,
and he went on to share Jesus with them.
Thousands of those Jews heard the Gospel message,
repented of their sins that day
and were baptized as followers of Christ.
But, first, Peter explained to them
the supernatural phenomenon
that brought them all together.
He quoted the prophecies
in the Old Testament scroll of Joel
that were fulfilled
by that outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
17 ‘It will be in the last days, says God,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh.
Your sons and your daughters will prophesy.
Your young men will see visions.
Your old men will dream dreams.
18 Yes, and on my servants and on my handmaidens in those days,
I will pour out my Spirit, and they will prophesy.
Yes, God used the prophet Joel,
hundreds of years earlier, to foretell
that outpouring of the Holy Spirit
on the day of Pentecost.
God poured out his Spirit on the 120 men and women
who were meeting for prayer in that upper room,
and they were clothed with power from heaven
to prophesy in languages
they had never learned.
They spoke “the mighty works of God”
in all those languages
and the thousands of people from many nations
gathered in the city streets below
all heard them speak in their own language.
Peter continued quoting
from the Old Testament scroll of Joel,
where God said,
19 I will show wonders in the sky above,
and signs on the earth beneath;
blood, and fire, and billows of smoke.
20 The sun will be turned into darkness,
and the moon into blood,
before the great and glorious day of the Lord comes.
The mighty wind that initiated this whole event
when the sound of wind came from the sky
and filled the upper room—
evidently that was one of the
“wonders in the sky above”
prophesied in Joel’s scroll.
But Peter went on,
from explaining the miraculous event they witnessed,
to preach on the lesson they should draw from it,
and the action that his listeners should take.
His quote from the book of Joel
concluded with this admonition:
21 It will be that whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
Peter used that quote
to tell that crowd of Jews in the streets
the message of Jesus
and how they could be saved.
And many of them listened.
We read further on in the same Chapter of Acts
that 3,000 of them were baptized that day
as followers of Christ.
But, how do the events of Pentecost apply to us today?
Should Christians today expect to speak in tongues?
Are you missing out on something, if you don’t?
Are you driving a Ford,
when you could be driving a Cadillac, as I mentioned
that pastor told my wife some years ago?
Well, it’s an issue that has been debated
among Bible-believing Christians for a hundred years,
ever since the modern Pentecostal charismatic
movements became popular.
As I mentioned a moment ago,
there are “cessationists” who say the Holy Spirit’s
miraculous gifts of healing and tongues
ceased after the First Century.
And there are Pentecostals and charismatics
who say those gifts are for today.
What does the Bible say?
The 16th Chapter of Mark contains several verses
that appear to have been added—
not in Mark’s original manuscript—
that say Christians will be identified
by tongues, healing, snake-handling,
drinking poison and
casting out demons.
But most authorities view that passage
as a bogus addition—
not really part of the Gospel.
There are a number of cases in the Book of Acts,
where new believers spoke in tongues
at the moment when they became Christians,
or when one of the Apostles laid hands on them.
In every case, it was in the presence of the Apostle Paul
or one of the 12 Apostles.
But the only extensive discussion
about speaking in tongues
is found in Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians.
It appears that speaking in tongues
was generating controversy in that church.
It seems that their meetings for worship were disorderly,
with people spontaneously doing and saying things
without any plan or order—
including talking in tongues.
So, Paul cautioned them at 1 Corinthians 14:23,
23 If therefore the whole assembly is assembled together and all speak with other languages, and unlearned or unbelieving people come in, won’t they say that you are crazy?
Paul told them how
to better organize their worship services,
but he didn’t forbid speaking in tongues,
as long as it was scheduled and orderly,
with someone to translate,
so everyone could understand what was said.
In fact, he concluded that discussion by saying
in Verse 39,
“desire earnestly to prophesy, and don’t forbid speaking with other languages.”
Charismatic and Pentecostal churches today
seem to expect all their members
to speak in tongues, either in the congregation,
or privately in prayer to God—
a “prayer language,” they call it.
But Paul made it clear that only certain ones in the Church
would do that—not everyone.
Beginning at 1 Corinthians 12:8, he wrote,
8 For to one is given through the Spirit the word of wisdom, and to another the word of knowledge, according to the same Spirit; 9 to another faith, by the same Spirit; and to another gifts of healings, by the same Spirit; 10 and to another workings of miracles; and to another prophecy; and to another discerning of spirits; to another different kinds of languages; and to another the interpretation of languages.
And then he continued, showing that only certain ones
would miraculously speak other languages, not all.
Beginning in Verse 29, he said,
29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all miracle workers? 30 Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with various languages? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the best gifts. Moreover, I show a most excellent way to you.
And, what is that “most excellent way”?
In the next verse, 1 Corinthians 13:1 he wrote,
1 If I speak with the languages of men and of angels, but don’t have love, I have become sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal.
So, speaking in tongues without love
is just making noise.
Love is more important.
And then he went on in Verse 8 to say,
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will be done away with. Where there are various languages, they will cease. Where there is knowledge, it will be done away with. 9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; 10 but when that which is complete has come, then that which is partial will be done away with.
Love never fails, but where there are
various languages, they will cease.
Other translations say,
“as for tongues, they will cease”
And so, that is where cessationists find their argument
that speaking in tongues no longer has
any place in the Church.
“as for tongues, they will cease”
Paul said, “when that which is complete has come.”
The context seems to imply this is
when we come into the Lord’s presence in heaven.
So, is speaking in tongues for today?
Again, different authorities take different positions
on that question.
And the issue is complicated by the fakery and fraud
associated with supposed miracles.
The ecstatic behavior and speaking in tongues
among Christian charismatics
looks just like the same behavior
seen in followers of non-Christian religions
and demonic worship found in
some primitive tribes and
The devil has long been known to imitate and duplicate
God’s miracles in order to deceive people.
When Moses and Aaron performed God’s miracles
in the presence of Pharaoh,
demanding he “Let my people go,”
Pharaoh’s magicians duplicated
some of those miracles.
We read at Exodus 7:11,
11 Then Pharaoh also called for the wise men and the sorcerers. They also, the magicians of Egypt, did the same thing with their enchantments.
So, not all miracles are from God.
In fact, my acquaintance in ministry,
who kept urging me
to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit
and speak in tongues—
he later left his church and
admitted to me that he was faking it.
And the pastor who told Penni
she should be driving a Cadillac instead of a Ford—
was later removed from his position
because of repeated misconduct
toward women not his wife.
So, miraculous gifts are not the decisive proof
of who to believe
and whose teachings to follow in the Church.
Our Lord Jesus warned at Matthew 24:24,
“false prophets will rise up and perform great signs and wonders so as to deceive, if possible, even God’s chosen ones.”
And Christ gave the real identifying marks
of his faithful followers when said
in Matthew Chapter 7,
15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves. 16 By their fruits you will know them. Do you gather grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree produces good fruit; but the corrupt tree produces evil fruit. 18 A good tree can’t produce evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree produce good fruit.
False prophets may be able to perform miracles
and to speak in tongues—
duplicating and imitating the gifts of the Spirit.
But false prophets produce bad fruit.
They aren’t able to keep on producing good fruit.
Sooner or later, their bad fruit comes out.
In Galatians Chapter 5 the Apostle Paul lists things
that those led by God’s Holy Spirit are not doing.
And that list at Galatians 5:19 includes
adultery, sexual immorality, uncleanness, lustfulness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, strife, jealousies, outbursts of anger, rivalries, divisions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these; of which I forewarn you, even as I also forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit God’s Kingdom.
Even if they can perform miracles and speak in tongues,
those who live lives like that
will not inherit God’s Kingdom, Paul tells us.
And then Paul goes on to list
the fruit of the Holy Spirit—
the things that really identify
those who are filled with God’s Spirit.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, 23 gentleness, and self-control.
These fruits of the Holy Spirit are the real evidence
of those who belong to Christ.
And the false prophets can not maintain those good fruits.
Yes, there are many fakers and phonies out there—
especially those who are raking in bundles of money
from their claimed supernatural powers.
But I don’t see anything in Scripture
that rules out God giving his miraculous gifts today
to faithful individuals.
If you have a Christian friend or acquaintance
who manifests the fruit of the Spirit
through consistent godly conduct,
and who also tells you they speak in tongues,
I wouldn’t reject their experience.
God deals with each of us individually, and,
as Paul said,
God gives different gifts and blessings
to different people.
Paul encouraged us to pursue, not tongues,
but the greater gifts—
gifts that involve sharing the Gospel with others
and strengthening our brothers and sisters
by sharing the Word of God.
Paul concluded his discussion in 1 Corinthians 13,
where he spoke of tongues ceasing,
“But now faith, hope, and love remain—these three. The greatest of these is love.”
And Paul encouraged each of us
to seek these greater gifts: faith, hope and love.