The Bible says that when we speak in tongues then NO MAN UNDERSTANDS and that we in the spirit speak MYSTERIES not unto men but unto GOD. This should settle the whole argument about tongues always being understood, because the Bible says they are not understood (unless they are interpreted).
1 Cor. 14:2For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue SPEAKETH NOT UNTO MEN; BUT UNTO GOD: for NO MAN UNDERSTANDETH HIM; howbeit in the spirit HE SPEAK MYSTERIES.
1 Cor. 14: 16 Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest?
Nowhere in the Bible does it say speaking in tongues was ever used for spreading the gospel. Here is what Acts says about the very first encounter of the tongues:
Acts 2:1And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. 4And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.–-6Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. 7And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? 8And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? 9Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, 10Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, 11Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God. 12And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this?13Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine. 14But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: 15For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. 16But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; 17And it shall come to pass IN THE LAST DAYS, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit UPON ALL FLESH: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: 18And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: 19And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: 20The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and notable day of the Lord come
Notice that is says THE LAST DAYS, and surely we are living in that last days even more today than 2,000 years ago?
We can read above that ”every man heard them speak in his own language” but does it say that every man understood ALL languages spoken by ALL disciples? No, it doesn’t say that. If a Cretan man heard his own language spoken by a disciple, is it certain that he also understood Arabic and other foreign languages spoken by OTHER disciples? It doesn’t sound likely that ALL those men who were present had knowledge enough to understand 10-20 languages. One can easily assume that for a Cretan person most other languages must have sounded like total gibberish to him – but we know that at least ONE disciple spoke in such a way that this Cretan person understood since ”every man heard them speak in his own language”. It doesn’t say each person understood ALL languages spoken. The case could also be that the tongues that were spoken were already ”interpreted” into worldly languages. (I’ve heard myself speaking in French and Finnish, and actually also in Swedish but when I did not use my own words.)
Acts 10:44While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. 45And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. 46For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, 47Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? 48And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.
Above we can read that these particular jews understood that the Gentiles in question had received the Holy Ghost for the reason that they spoke in tongues and magnified God. This was a SIGN to these people. Below we can read again that speaking in tongues, among other things, is one of the signs for a believer:
Mark 16:17And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; 18They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.
Since Paul gives instruction about tongues within the christian church, it’s evident that tongues should be used among christians – and of course only if someone can interpret them. Speaking in tongues is naturally controllable just like any other language. You decide when to speak and when not to.
It’s in the book of Corinthians where we can read the most details about tongues (see further below)
The book of Corinthians tells us that the reason for speaking in tongues is that IT CAN EDIFY BOTH YOU AND (if you have the gift of interpreting) ALSO OTHERS. It is a BETTER deal if you can edify the church, but if you don’t have the gift if interpreting SPEAK TO YOURSELF AT HOME SO YOU CAN BE EDIFIED.
1 Cor. 14:4He that speaketh in an unknown tongue EDIFIETH HIMSELF; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.
1 Cor. 14:28 But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and LET HIM SPEAK TO HIMSELF, AND TO GOD
So speaking in tongues is not only for other ears, particularly not when we can read:
”he that speaketh in an unknown tongue SPEAKETH NOT UNTO MEN; BUT UNTO GOD”
If, according to Paul, you don’t even speak to men but to GOD, then of course speaking in tongues is not only for others to hear. IF they are interpreted, then they could be for others to hear, if done in proper order. It’s not certain that a person who can speak in tongues also has the gift of interpretation, but he should be EAGER to get also this gift so even MORE people can be edified.
1 Cor 11:30Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? 31But COVET EARNESTLY the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.
1 Cor 14:1 Follow after charity, and DESIRE SPIRITUAL GIFTS, but rather that ye may prophesy. 2For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue SPEAKETH NOT UNTO MEN; BUT UNTO GOD: for NO MAN UNDERSTANDETH HIM; howbeit in the spirit HE SPEAK MYSTERIES.
We are to speak in both ways; 1) spirit (tongues) and 2) mind (our own understanding):
1 Cor. 14:19 I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding ALSO: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.
If you’re honest; are you really eager to speak in both ways as Paul says you should? Take notice of that not ONCE does Paul discourage people to speak in tongues in any way but he ENCOURAGES them, and that is what I feel all pastors and evangelists should do. It’s just the disorder that Paul warns about. If tongues were supposed to cease shortly after the generation he was addressing, why are we not able to read information about this anywhere? It would have been so easy to add a little note about this to warn people about upcoming ”fake” tongues or similar IF that were true. The question that needs to be answered by those who believe speaking tongues has ceased is this: Why haven’t they ceased? I can only see two reasons to why christians in MANY MILLIONS continue to speak in tongues (if they have indeed ceased)
1) The tongues spoken today are not real tongues but from Satan, so the people who speak in tongues are demon possessed.
2) Those who speak in tongues today make them up, i.e. those who use them are LYING since the speaking in tongues is fake.
Both these options result in that those who speak in tongues are not saved unless you believe that people who are demon possessed or unrepentant liars will be saved. So this means that the cessationists believe speaking in tongues is a sign for that they are UNBELIEVERS – contrary to what Mark 16:17 says.
Paul encouraged tongues and spent a considerable amount of time and words in the book of Corinthians to give instructions about them. It certainly doesn’t seem he believed they would shortly cease and that all those instructions were in vain. IF they would shortly cease, he should have spent some time to WARN about upcoming fake tongues, but he doesn’t say one word about it. Paul gives two cases where PUBLIC speaking of tongues is inappropriate:
1) Unbelievers would think you’re crazy if they ONLY hear gibberish from you
2) No one would understand you and thus it wouldn’t really benefit others. The case could be that you actually prayed for others BUT the thing is that they would still not UNDERSTAND that, so it would be totally useless if you stood up in church and spoke in tongues. Praying for others or yourself using other tongues is fine, but just not out loud in a church for obvious reasons.
Maybe the corinthians believed ”the more tongues the better” since they really believed that tongues are from the Holy Spirit, but it still doesn’t mean it’s appropriate to babble them in any way you want. There must be a proper order. So Paul’s friendly instructions should not be viewed as rebuke, but just a help to sort out misunderstandings and to enable a better order in church. Public speaking in tongues would be a total waste of time if there is no interpreter.
1) The term ”oudies” in 1 Cor. 14 rules out tongues being a known language.
2) The phrase ”face to face” is a Judaic idiom expressing personal interaction with the presence of God and is the same Greek as the LXX in Moses ”face to face” with God. This means that tongues will cease when we meet God face to face so clearly not NOW.
3) ”The perfect” cannot be the Bible because the canon wasn’t even finished.
4) Tongues as a sign to unbelievers is only ONE of the uses of the gift. Acts 10 and 19 say that the sign is to believers, just as Mark 16:17.
5) Why is there a gift called ”interpretor” if all tongues are languages that can be understood? Why are we asked to pray for the gift of interpretation of tongues?
Rom. 8:26Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
It’s true that speaking in tongues is a free GIFT, but this doesn’t mean it’s wise to do nothing and wait for this gift to be handed to you. It’s called ”free” because you can’t work for it, and it’s not given to those who have reached a higher level on the ”holiness scale”. However, we are told to DESIRE this free gift and be EAGER to get it. If you’re not even seeking this gift or consider it valuable in your life, then there is a risk you’re quenching the power of the holy spirit. You’re risking to miss out on a wonderful and powerful gift.
1 Thess. 5:19Quench not the Spirit. 20Despise not prophesyings. 21Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
Examples from real life
Do you obey the below instructions to the fullest?:
Matthew 6:6″But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.”
Do we always obey this exactly as it says? Of course we don’t. We check the context and try to understand the reasoning behind the words. Surely we sometimes get together with other christians and pray together with them and NOT in our closets? Paul wants order in church and gave this as a reason for his instructions about tongues. Let’s not add to his words.
Let’s take a private setting as in a Thursday night prayer meeting in church OR in someone’s home. Suppose 10 christians are present and the leader asks them to start off with prayers and thanksgiving to God. Everyone begins to pray quietly, and there is usually a person who is leading the prayers and speaks out loud (naturally so that all can understand) whereas the others might say ”amen” or just continue in their own private prayers. Well, what if a few of these christians prefer to speak in tongues in his/her prayers? Only believers are present, and no one is standing up demanding other people’s attention. If you wouldn’t be upset if you heard Spanish beside you in a prayer meeting, why would you be upset about tongues that you happen to overhear? You weren’t supposed to listen anyway, and Paul’s instructions concerned PUBLIC speech. If you still feel this violates Paul’s instructions, then aren’t you also violating the instructions in Matt 6:6? You are supposed to pray SECRETLY inside your closet and you should shut the door, and not to be in a public prayer meeting praying together with others.
What if Charlie asked the others to pray for him? The others wouldn’t say that they preferred not to because it would violate Matt 6:6, but they would pray for Charlie who asked for it. Maybe one person would take the lead and pray so that Charlie can hear and understand, and maybe the rest would pray quietly at the same time – some in their own language and some in tongues. Charlie has no reason to be upset about other people praying for him in whatever way they like. The same people might later on return home and continue to pray for this person, and he won’t be able to hear, understand or say Amen to those prayers either. Again, the prayers are NOT for anyone to listen to but they are prayers from one person to GOD. When someone wants another person to understand, then naturally a foreign tongue is NOT a good idea since other people cannot say Amen.
Tongues in churches today
Ja. 5:13 Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.14 Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.16 Confess your faults one to another, and PRAY ONE FOR ANOTHER, THAT YE MAY BE HEALED. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.17 Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months.18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.
People seem to be so freaked out about tongues that they decide to turn their backs on tongues altogether. Doesn’t this mean that Satan is the winner with this type of reasoning? Speaking in tongues is a very useful weapon against the darkness, so it’s a shame that we let Satan fool us by making us flee from this wonderful gift which could edify us. He would then have disarmed us of a weapon which could be used against him.
WHERE in the Bible can we read that pastors should discourage church members to speak in tongues and/or neglect to inform them about the benefit of them? Paul is definitely encouraging tongues. He said ”I would like every one of you to speak in tongues”. Since Paul is highlighting the benefit of tongues I wouldn’t be comfortable in a church where the pastor doesn’t do his job to encourage them. The best way to avoid the misuse of tongues is not to avoid tongues all together, but to obey Paul’s instruction about them. Speaking in tongues is supposed to be a sign that will accompany those who believe, so it’s rather essential. I therefore feel it’s a duty of a pastor to encourage the spiritual gifts such as driving out demons, healing people, speaking in tongues, etc.
Maybe there are people who get mightily upset if they are in a church where the pastor might be overheard speaking a few words in tongues quietly to himself when he walks from the pulpit (where he just had a sermon) back to his seat. They might jump up and say:
– ”See?!! I heard him speak in tongues! That’s clearly unbiblical because tongues are supposed to be interpreted if made in public, and this was not the case here so this church must be really BAD!” etc
But what about other churches where the gifts of the spirit are not even in use? Why would THIS not be a cause for concern? Why don’t the same people jump up and say:
– ”See?!! I have been to this church for weeks now and not ONCE have I heard a single whisper in tongues from anyone, nor seen anyone speaking in tongues in public (interpreted of course), nor seen any signs for ANY of the gifts of the holy spirit. This is clearly against the Bible so this means this church must be BAD!”, etc.
”Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.” Some people interpret this as in ”Forget about tongues, and rather desire to prophesy ONLY” but it doesn’t say that. It says ”desire spiritual gifts”. That would include tongues. Of course it’s better to be able to prophesy since MORE people can be edified, but if you don’t have this gift then don’t neglect the desire to at least speak in tongues! Of course one gift is better than no gift at all!
Finally, here is what the book of Corinthians says about tongues
1 Cor. 1:8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; 9To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; 10To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: — 28And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. 29Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? 30Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? 31But COVET EARNESTLY the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.
1 Cor. 13 8Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. 9For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. 10But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. 11When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12For 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 14:1 Follow after charity, and DESIRE SPIRITUAL GIFTS, but rather that ye may prophesy. 2For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue SPEAKETH NOT UNTO MEN; BUT UNTO GOD: for NO MAN UNDERSTANDETH HIM; howbeit in the spirit HE SPEAK MYSTERIES. 3But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort. 4He that speaketh in an unknown tongue EDIFIETH himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church. 5I would that ye all spake with tongues but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying. 6Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine?— 9So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air. 10There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification. 11Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me. 12Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, SEEK that ye may excel to the edifying of the church. 13Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue PRAY THAT HE MAY INTERPRET. 14For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful. 15What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding ALSO: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also. 16Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest? 17For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified. 18I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all: 19Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue. —22Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe. 23If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad? 24But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: 25And 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. 26How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying. 27If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret. 28But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and LET HIM SPEAK TO HIMSELF, AND TO GOD. —39Wherefore, brethren, COVET to prophesy, and FORBID NOT to speak with tongues.