"LET THERE BE LIGHT" Ministries
THE GIFT OF TONGUES
No spiritual gift today enjoys more popularity, or harbors such inherent possibilities of deception, as speaking in tongues. So for those who have chosen to follow God, it is important to understand exactly what His word says about the gift of tongues in order to avoid being deceived or fooled by any counterfeit.
The first Biblical occurrence of speaking in tongues was at the tower of Babel (see Genesis 11:1-9). Instead of all human beings speaking just one common language, God miraculously intervened and now there were hundreds of different languages which eventually became scattered throughout the different nationalities of the world!
Out of all these nationalities, God chose the Hebrews to be His peculiar people (see Psalms 135:4). Since they were God’s chosen, He desired them to follow and keep all His commandments and to spread His truths to all other nations (see Deuteronomy 26:16-19). But their history shows that they chose instead to disobey God, rejected His truth, embraced custom and tradition, were defrauding the world with a counterfeit gospel, and they would not repent–going so far as to crucify God’s Son Jesus Christ! God then set them aside and chose the Gentiles to be His people (see Matthew 23:37-39; Acts 18:6; Romans 10:16-21, 11:1-28). But in mercy, God gave the Jews one last chance of gaining salvation, and this last hope was to be seen through a special miracle.
“For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people.” Isaiah 28:11.
When Jesus trained His disciples during His three-and-one-half-year ministry, He limited their training towards reaching out to the Jews living in Israel and Samaria. However, after Christ ascended into heaven, He desired to send His disciples with the gospel truth, not just to the Jews, but now to every nation. Jesus had already foretold that His disciples would speak with "new tongues" (see Mark 16:17-18), and now it was time for the promised sign to arrive. But what kind of tongues did they speak?
In the book of Acts is recorded three instances of tongues-speaking: first in Jerusalem, second in Caesarea, and third in Ephesus. Let us examine these three instances in more detail.
Tongues in Jerusalem (Acts 2:1-13). In the spring of the year, just 50 days after Christ's resurrection, our Lord's followers first spoke in tongues. A group of about 120 believers were gathered together in obedience to Jesus who had "commanded them that they should not to depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father" (Acts 1:4). It was the feast of weeks, and the city of Jerusalem was crowded with pilgrims “out of every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5). It was at this time that God chose to pour out His Spirit in a marked way. These believers had been together for 10 days, during which time they had worked out all their differences and were now perfectly united in the bonds of peace and love. The day of Pentecost had arrived, when suddenly they heard a sound like that of a strong wind and saw a fire-like form flicker above every head in the room. The Holy Spirit came upon every individual, and they "began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance" (Acts 2:4).
When the sound of this occurrence was heard, the curious crowd came flocking together to see what was happening. With thousands of people gathering around to hear, the disciples began to speak. But this was no normal speech–it was with the gift of tongues. It caused great confusion and amazement. Never before had men been able to speak a language that they had never learned. It caused such consternation to the wondering crowd, that they even listed all the different languages that were spoken and understood. There were a total of fifteen: Parthians, Medes, Elamites, Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, Libya, Rome, Cretans and Arabs.
There is no question about it, the disciples were miraculously given the ability to speak plainly and clearly in other languages without ever having learned them. They were not babbling, speaking gibberish, or speaking in languages that no one could understand, but they were given the ability to speak the language of those to whom they were trying to witness to. “Jews, devout men...heard them speak in his own language...And they were all amazed and marvelled...” (Acts 2:5-7).
The speaking in “other tongues” did not come by man's own efforts, but it was a gift the Holy Spirit. The Lord desired that the gospel would rapidly go to many different countries in a most miraculous manner. The gift of tongues was evidence to the unbelieving Jews that God was indeed in this work and the gospel message was from Him. It was not given to edify the believers, to grant them a special feeling, or as unintelligible utterances. It was a gift that enabled God’s people to speak in the languages of their hearers, and now this promised sign had been given!
The result of Christ's followers receiving the gift to speak in different languages was the conversion of “about three thousand souls” to Christ in one day (see Acts 2:41). So not only was this gift of tongues given to be the promised sign to the Jews, but it was also given for the proclamation of the gospel. With such a large number of Jews from all over the world accepting this gospel truth, the message could then spread with lightning speed as they would take it back to their homes. But what about the next time the Holy Spirit as poured out and tongues were spoken?
Tongues in Caesarea (Acts 10:44-48, 11:15-18). About 7 years later, in 38AD, occurred the second recorded instance of tongues. Peter was led by the Holy Spirit to visit the home of a Gentile named Cornelius, who was a Roman Centurion in Caesarea. As Peter was preaching the gospel truth unto Cornelius and his family and friends, they all believed and accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour. Then the Holy Spirit fell upon all of these Gentile believers and they began to speak in tongues. The hearers of these Gentiles were Jewish Christians who had accompanied Peter, and they heard these “speak with tongues and magnify God” (Acts 10:46).
When Peter was later explaining to the other apostles and brethren about what happened in Caesarea, he says that “the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning” (Acts 11:15). So these Gentile converts spoke known discernable languages which were understood by their listeners just like with the disciples at the beginning. By speaking in languages they had never learned, these Gentile believers showed their Jewish Christian audience that the Spirit of God was including them in “the family of God” as His “chosen people” (see Galatians 3:26-29; Romans 10:12). It also showed that the gospel was to be preached “to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people” (Revelation 14:6), and not just to the Jews alone. And to effectively accomplish this, God gave His people the ability to speak in different languages. But what about the third time tongues were spoken?
Tongues in Ephesus (Acts 19:1-7). In 51AD, about 13 years after the Holy Spirit was poured out in the home of Cornelius, Paul was preaching to 12 people. They had been baptized with “John's baptism,” but were not yet aware that the Holy Spirit had come to indwell believers in Christ. So Paul instructed them, re-baptized them in water, laid his hands on them, and instantly “the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues and prophesied” (Acts 19:6). The Greek word for “tongues” used here is “glÇssa” which translates “a language”. So these 12 men spoke in other languages not before learned by them, but were understood by the people who heard them. This final occurrence of the gift of tongues is illustrating the importance of rebaptism. The Lord gives His approval upon rebaptism when you learn greater truths from His word, and He signified it by pouring out His Spirit and giving the gift of speaking different known languages.
Having looked at every occurrence of the true gift of tongues in the Bible, the only conclusion to which we can come to is that tongue-speaking is the miraculous gift of being able to speak another known language to people with whom we would otherwise be unable to communicate. The manifestation of the Spirit in all three instances was not vain babbling or gibberish that could be confused for a drunken man's speech; it was not a language that no one could understand, or that had to be deciphered by the hearers; but it was the perfectly understood use of foreign languages spoken under the power of the Holy Spirit. This is the true gift of tongues.
The very fact that there is something true, is usually an indicator that the devil has counterfeited it in order to deceive. This is true in the case of tongues. Not only can God give the miraculous gift of speaking in other languages before unknown, but the devil can also speak through people (see Mark 1:23-26, 5:7-12). So then there can be a false gift of tongues. And in 1 Corinthians we learn that some kind of tongues-speaking was being practiced in a church of God among the believers in this city. Was this the true kind of tongues, or the counterfeit?
Tongues in Corinth (1 Corinthians, chapters 12-14). In 53AD, about two years after the 12 disciples spoke in tongues, Paul heard that the church in Corinth was having a variety of problems. Now it is thought that the Corinthian church is a model for what other tongue-speaking churches should be. But it would be well to look and see what Paul said about this church.
Paul stated that the Corinthian church members were carnal and that there was strife, envying and divisions among them (see 1 Corinthians 3:1-3). There was such a severe case of fornication among them, that it was even shocking to the Gentiles (see 1 Corinthians 5.3). Brothers were going to the law and suing one another (see 1 Corinthians 6:5-7). They were doing wrong and defrauding their brethren (see 1 Corinthians 6:8). Their women were not dressing as they should, instead they were dressing like harlots (see 1 Corinthians 11:1-16). There were heresies among them (see 1 Corinthians 11:19). They were defiling the Lord's supper, and for this cause some of them had died (see 1 Corinthians 11:20-22, 29, 30). There was confusion and disorder in the church (see 1 Corinthians 14:33-40). There were also false apostles and unrighteous ministers among them (see 2 Corinthians 11:13-15). Etc.
These strong statements from Paul were far from being complimentary regarding the Corinthian church. Certainly they were not a church to model after, but a church that was in need of conversion back to God. In fact, they were in danger of receiving another gospel and another Jesus, or even receiving another spirit (see 2 Corinthians 11:3-4). Thus they were far from being an example of a church that was filled with God’s Spirit, but they were actually a church that was in grave danger of being deceived by a counterfeit, false spirit.
Among the issues Paul dealt with these believers in Corinth was a big problem with the gift of tongues. It appears that the church services were being disrupted by people making sounds that neither they, nor anyone present, could understand or interpret. We can be sure that a counterfeit kind of tongues-speaking was taking place in this church, or there would have been no problem.
Were the tongues in Acts different from the tongues in 1 Corinthians? Yes. In Acts we find only three occurrences of tongues-speaking over a period of 20 years. But in Corinth, tongue-speaking was a regular practice during church services. In Acts we find no indication that any one person had the gift of tongues: at Pentecost it was the whole group of disciples (about 120 of them); in the home of Cornelius it was all the new converts; at Ephesus it was all 12 who had just been instructed and rebaptized. But in 1 Corinthians 12:10 we read about there now being individual believers speaking tongues, as well as a gift of interpretation of tongues in that group.
Because of the extent of this unholy confusion taking place in Corinth, it is possible that the tongues being spoken in this church was neither a known language, nor a gift from God, and thus people were in danger of being deceived. So Paul had to set them straight with the following guidelines:
--Tongues-speaking was not the universal evidence of the baptism of the Spirit, because while every true believer is baptized by the Spirit, not all believers would speak in tongues (1 Cor. 12:8-11,13,30).
--Tongues-speaking was of lesser importance than prophecy, and of far less importance than love (1 Cor. 12:31; 13). In fact, sometimes tongues was not even listed as one of the spiritual gifts to be received (see Ephesians 4:1-16).
--The gift of prophecy was better than tongues because it edified the church (1 Cor. 14:1-4).
--Unregulated speaking in tongues led to confusion (1 Cor. 14:7-12).
–Public speaking in uninterpreted tongues had no value (1 Cor. 14:13-19).
--Preoccupation with tongues was a sign of immaturity (1 Cor. 14:20).
--Unregulated tongues was a hindrance in the salvation of others (1 Cor. 14:23).
--Since tongues could be counterfeited, public tongues-speaking had to be strictly regulated (1 Cor. 14:26-40).
--Only two or three were allowed to speak in tongues in a service, and they were to speak in turn (1 Cor. 14:27, 30).
--Those speaking uninterpreted or unknown tongues were to stop speaking and be quiet (1 Cor. 14:28).
--A proper and orderly atmosphere in church services was to be maintained (1 Cor. 14:40).
We can clearly see that Paul is rebuking and chastising the believers for allowing a counterfeit tongues-speaking into their midst. He is not teaching that this counterfeit tongues is something we should desire. He is not teaching that we should speak without understanding, or that we should speak in a babbling or gibberish language that no one understands. But Paul is trying keep this false type of tongues-speaking from continuing to be a problem in the Corinthian church, and he emphasizes again that the main purpose of tongues was a sign “not to them that believe, but to them that believe not...(to) those that are unlearned, or unbelievers” (1 Corinthians 14:22-23). In following this counsel, tongues would then become a credential sign to these unbelievers as to who was proclaiming the real gospel truth.
The incident recorded in Acts chapter 2 is the first time that the true gift of tongues was given. But for many centuries previous to this, non-language utterances of gibberish had been observed and noted. These kind of unknown tongues had nothing to do with Christianity or the God of heaven, but were found in the various pagan, spiritualistic and occultic religions and groups. There have been recorded and documented instances of such counterfeit tongue speaking in both ancient and modern times in the following religious circles: Egyptian priests, Greek priests and priestesses, Shamans or medicine men, African tribes, Tibetan monks, Hudson Bay Eskimos, North Borneo pagans, an Islamic saint, even by Brigham Young and other Mormons. Tongues have also been reproduced in psychological studies.
These above occurrences were not the tongues of languages, but were mere babbling and gibberish. In fact, here is an example of tongues-speaking recorded and transcribed from more modern times: “prou pray proddey, pa pallassate pa pau pu pe, teli terattata taw, terrea te te-te-te-te, vole virte vum, elee lete lede luto, singe singe singe, imba, imba, ima.” All such tongue gibberish is nothing more than a cleaver satanic counterfeit of God's true miracle of speaking real, known and understood languages.
The evidence above demonstrates that what is currently practiced as tongues-speaking is not a supernatural gift from God, but is more closely linked with the pagan, spiritualistic and occultic form of tongues. And even though few Christians would want to associate themselves with these satanic groups, many are involved in speaking the same counterfeit form of tongue gibberish!
Yet there are many sincere and honest Christians today who, just like in Corinth, have spoken in this counterfeit type of tongues. Many of these dear people do not know that this is not the true gift as spoken of in the Bible. They truly love the Lord and have thought that this is what God desired. And God, in mercy, winks at the times of our ignorance, and He therefore condemns no one for their honest mistakes, “but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). We are judged by the light that we have received and by the use we have made of that light. Mercifully, the Lord allows correction and instruction to come to His people, because He loves them dearly and does not want them to be lost (see Jeremiah 31:3; Revelation 3:19; Ezekiel 18:23). Will you allow the Lord to correct and instruct you through His word?
It is important to realize that people were never taught how to speak in “tongues.” The power came upon them suddenly and instantaneously (see Acts 2:2-4, 10:44-46, 19:6). They were “unlearned and ignorant”(Acts 4:13). This confirms that they had not learned these foreign languages by natural means. So the true gift of tongue speaking was not learned or taught. It was not the result of training. Like miraculous healings, it came suddenly. Generally, people had no idea it was coming, were not expecting it, and had no control over when it came. Whereas modern tongue speakers often “learn” to speak in tongues by listening to others do it and then trying to imitate them, or by being trained how to do it. Thus they do not have the true gift.
The miracle of the true gift of tongues was that God’s people could speak existing languages which they had never studied, and their foreign listeners could recognize and clearly understand the gospel message! If people today were really speaking in tongues, as in the Bible, a person would suddenly be able to speak French, Spanish, Russian, etc., to others who understood these languages, without ever having studied the languages or practiced them at all. But this is not what happens in modern tongues movement. They do not speak real languages. And what they do speak is either learned by observing others, or by being instructed on how to do it. Therefore they are being deceived by the counterfeit tongues of the devil, and all the time believing that they are being blessed with gifts from God!
Besides this, there are some that suppose that if there is a supernatural manifestation, then it must be from God. This is actually one of the most dangerous views to hold, for it opens the mind up to the manifold deceptions of the devil. It has already been clearly shown that there have historically been supernatural manifestations among heathen religions, and that demons can speak through human beings. For this reason, the Bible gives us very clear warnings. “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try (test) the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” 1 John 4:1. “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.” 1 Timothy 4:1. If we should believe that every spiritualistic manifestation is from God, we will inevitably be deceived.
The most solemn warnings are given that there are many false prophets in the world, and thus we cannot believe that every spiritualistic manifestation must be from God. Not only that, but this is a warning specifically directed to our time, because Paul tells us that in the “latter times” some are going to listen to these “seducing spirits” and to the “doctrines of devils.” Clearly, we must test every supernatural manifestation. Just because an event, or an occurrence–such as tongues, takes place, does not mean that it is from God. “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no marvel: for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.” 2 Corinthians 11:13-15. Hence, we cannot go by feelings because the devil can so disguise himself as to appear as a glorious angel of light, and his agents can appear as the ministers of righteousness. So the absolute last test to use is the test of feelings.
The devil can, and is playing upon the ever changing and fickle emotions of millions of sincere, but deceived people today. So we must test and prove the spirits. The question is, how do we test spiritualistic manifestations?
The most prominent of the tests is found in Isaiah 8:20: “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” The most unequivocal statement is made that if the law and the testimony are not adhered to, we are not to listen to them. God's Spirit will always work and teach in accordance with God’s law and Bible truth. God’s law is the foundation of His government. It is a transcript of His character, and God has declared that He will never alter it (see Psalms 89:34; Luke 16:17.) If a spiritualistic manifestation is not in accordance with God's ten commandment law and the rest of Scripture, then there is no light in it. The Scripture does not say, there is some light; it says “NO LIGHT”. So it doesn't matter how wonderful it may feel; it doesn't matter how good it may look; it doesn't matter how high the profession is; if all of God's law and Bible truth is not being upheld, then there is absolutely no light in it. It is a false spiritualistic manifestation from the devil, and it cannot be trusted. This one test alone actually exposes the fallacy of hundreds of spiritualistic manifestations.
But many who are really using counterfeit tongues have substantiated their claim that what they were doing was from God because of all the miracles and healings that had happened. Once again, we must investigate from the Bible to see whether this is a valid test to use. “And then shall that Wicked be revealed...after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.” 2 Thessalonians 2:8-10. Certainly it is not safe to trust in miracles since we are specifically told that there will be counterfeit signs and lying wonders worked among us in order to deceive. In fact, we are repeatedly warned that the devil will work, especially through miracles, in the last days. “He doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men...For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.” Revelation 13:13, 16:14. Obviously, the devil will work miracles, signs, and wonders in the last days; so just because a movement exhibits these supernatural workings, does not mean that God’s Holy Spirit is involved!
The Bible is clear that the most important work of the Holy Spirit is not to manifest itself through miracles of healing or through the gift of tongues, as many people claim today. One of the most important functions of the Holy Spirit is to lead God's people into all truth. “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come.” John 16:13. Jesus tells us that when the Comforter comes, He will guide us into all truth. The job and function of the Holy Spirit is to guide God's people into the correct understanding of the truths found in God's word. This is such a major part of the Holy Spirit's work that He is called the “Spirit of truth”(see John 14:17, 15:26). So if there should be a spiritual manifestation from God’s Spirit in our midst, it will be for the purpose of leading and guiding God's people into all truth.
The Bible is also very clear that God gives the gift of prophecy to guide His people into truth. God gives the gifts of pastors, evangelists, apostles, etc., to teach His people the truth. God gives the gift of tongues to be able to communicate this truth to those who would not be able to otherwise understand. But the gifts that the devil gives would be just the opposite: they would not lead and guide God’s people into all the truth, but would lead into error. Thus his counterfeit gift of tongues would not be able to communicate truth to anyone, but would be utterances that no one could understand or interpret–such as gibberish.
If what we are saying is not understood by our listeners, we are speaking to the air, and we might as well not even be talking. “Therefore 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” (1 Corinthians 14:11). It does absolutely no good for us to speak with one another, if we don't know what each other is saying!
How much clearer could it be? There is no value in speaking in tongues without you, or your listeners, understanding what you are saying. The entire point of speaking is to communicate. Unknown babbling does not accomplish this. Thus the modern tongues-speaking is not from God because it does not abide by the instructions found in His word. And it is very dangerous to submit ourselves to the working of a spirit that is not from God.
Certainly the Holy Spirit was not giving approval to that which was so unprofitable and disorderly in Corinth, and neither is He working in the modern tongue-speaking churches of today. If these churches have the real "Pentecost experience" like the apostles, modern tongue-speakers would speak known, existing languages. But to speak in gibberish and nonsense is like little kids making meaningless sounds to imitate a foreign language. This is what tongue-speakers subconsciously or unknowingly speak. It is not a language at all, but is really the counterfeit of the devil.
Yet some may argue that uninterpreted tongues are just the person speaking or praying unto God and not to men (see 1 Corinthians 14:2, 14). But as God is the Creator of all languages, He can understand all languages. So why would you need to speak unto God, or pray unto God, in another language that neither you or anyone else can interpret or understand, when you can speak and pray to God in your own language? Besides, you would be guilty of edifying yourself (see 1 Corinthians 14:4), instead of edifying others, and Paul was very explicit to commanded such people to be quiet (see 1 Corinthians 14:28).
The only way that we can be safe in these last days, when every deception and falsehood is so prevalent, is to diligently study the Bible for ourselves, striving to live by every word, and to test all spiritual manifestations by this truth. The real quandry comes when we see that God’s word conflicts with what we may have previously believed. Do we then believe the Bible, or are we going to continue in the wrong way that we are going? Jesus has foretold the mournful words that will be spoken to those who choose to follow their own ways, instead of following the word of God. “Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” Matthew 7:21-23. There are going to be many who have prophesied, many who have cast out devils, many who have done miracles, many who have spoken in tongues, but Jesus says: “I never knew you.” Why? Because they were involved in the deceptive counterfeit of the devil, and they did not keep all of God’s commandments, but continued to “work iniquity”. We must be following and doing our Father's will, keeping all of His commandments out of love for Him, in order to avoid hearing this terrible denunciation against ourselves and losing salvation (see John 14:15, 21, 15:10; Revelation 22:14-15).
Understanding the nature of true spiritual gifts helps us to appreciate the real reason for these gifts, and also helps us distinguish them from the devil’s counterfeits. The Bible gift of tongues involved people speaking existing languages without ever having learned them. The result was a saving message capable of being understood and translated by those who knew the language. But the Bible does not recommend using tongues which cannot be understood or interpreted, or are nothing more than gibberish and nonsense. Neither does the Bible recommend using tongues as a private prayer language. Besides, all non-language tongues-speaking is dangerous. It leads a person to take something that is counterfeit as being the genuine miracle and token of God's approval. Like transcendental meditation, mystical rituals, and other mind-emptying procedures, it opens the door to demonic influences. And worse of all, it promotes a false unity with other tongue-speaking people and groups even though they hold widely diverse beliefs on the essential truths of God’s word.
In this short study, we have seen that the modern "tongue speaking" movement that many are involved in–especially among the charismatic churches and people, actually fails on every test of God’s word. Thus it is a counterfeit, a fake, sent by Satan to fool people into accepting false doctrines and losing eternal life.
Yet God, in love and mercy for His honest people, does not want to see any of them deceived by a counterfeit of the devil and lost thereby. So in order to save them, God calls all of His true followers who may find themselves connected to any of these churches or groups that speak non-language tongues, or in any other movements which are breaking some or all of God's law, to follow His last message of mercy found in Revelation 18:4-5. “And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities.” Will you heed God’s call?