Whether there be tongues, they shall cease.
1 Corinthians 13:2

 

Many Christians refer to speaking in tongues as “speaking in an unknown tongue”, which is not wrong, as it was a tongue not known to the speaker.
The italicized words in the King James Bible are words that were added by the translators to help the reader. This is usually necessary when translating from one language to another because word meanings and idioms change. So, to produce a more readable translation, the King James translators (1604- 1611) added certain words to the Bible text. However, to make sure that everyone understood that these words were not in the available manuscripts they set them in italics.
It is clear from scripture, that the ability to speak in tongues is the ability to speak in a known language that one has never learned. (These were real earthly languages).
Unknown to the speaker but a known language, recognised by the hearer.

The first account in the New Testament of speaking in tongues, was in:


Act 2:1  And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 
Act 2:2  And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 
Act 2:3  And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. 
Act 2:4  And they were all
filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. 
 

Other tongues,  refers to a tongue that is not your own native tongue, (language).

glōssa - gloce'-sah. Of uncertain affinity; the tongue; by implication a language (specifically one naturally unacquired): - tongue.

On the day of Pentecost the believers were
filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke in languages that they had not learned and these were languages recognised by those listening.

Act 2:5  And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. 
Act 2:6  Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. 

Act 2:7  And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to  another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? 
Act 2:8  And how
hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? 
Act 2:9  Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, 

Act 2:10  Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, 
Act 2:11  Cretes and Arabians,
we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God. 
 

This was a miracle, it was the Holy Spirit that gave them the ability to do this. It was not of themselves, not of the flesh, they were not making it up, it was not babbling or gibberish.

There are other scriptures that show that this manifestation was evident when someone was filled with the Holy Spirit.

 

E.G. The house of Cornelius.
Act 10:44  While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. 

Act 10:45  And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. 
Act 10:46 
For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God.
Act 19:6  And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied. 


Paul in Ephesus.

Act 19:6  And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied. 

However, not everyone that was filled with the Holy Spirit spoke in tongues.

When Samaria heard the Gospel.

Act 8:14  Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Act 8:15  Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: 

Act 8:16  (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) 

Act 8:17  Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.
No sign of tongues here.

The conversion of Saul of Tarsus.
Act 9:17  And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and  putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.  

No tongues recorded here.

Although we do know from other scriptures that Paul did speak with other tongues, we are not told that he did here.
However, Paul said in his letter to Corinth:

1Co 14:18  I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all: 
 

So, we see that there are events where some spoke in tongues and others where they did not.
But can we conclude from this that the evidence of Baptism with the Holy Spirit is speaking in tongues or prophecy?
This is not made clear from scripture.

Then there is the question asked by the Apostle Paul in 
1 Cor 12:30, Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?

The obvious conclusion to this question is No!

Paul uses the analogy of the body to help the reader understand.
The body is made of many members, all manifesting different functions.
If everyone was an eye, where would the hearing be?

 

14 For the body is not one member, but many. 
15 If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? 
16 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? 
17 If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? 
18 But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. 


Not everyone had the same gift.
 

1Co 12:27  Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. 
1Co 12:28  And 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. 
1Co 12:29  Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? 
1Co 12:30  Have all the gifts of healing?
do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? 

 

What was the point of speaking in tongues?
It seems that the objective was to declare the wonderful works of God
We are told that on the day of Pentecost
Acts 2:11 we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God

These tongues magnified or glorified God.

Act 10:46  For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God.

With these tongues they revealed the Word of God.

Act 19:6  And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied. (declaring God’s words).

These tongues glorified God and were a sign that God was at work. It was attesting the work and word of God.
 

Was there another reason for the gift of tongues?
The letter to Corinth by the Apostle Paul, is the letter that speaks most about the manifestation of the gift of tongues in a church fellowship.

The Corinthian church, was one of the earliest churches to receive the Gospel and that experienced the outpouring of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Now in this church at Corinth there were believers that had been  converted from paganism, many who had been involved with pagan worship and all the things that went with it.
 

1Co 12:2  Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led. 

This was a congregation that had many problems and Paul felt it necessary to address some of these problems.
 

1Co 6:6  But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers. 
1Co 6:7  Now therefore
there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded? 
1Co 6:8  Nay,
ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren. 
1Co 6:9  Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 
1Co 6:10  Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 
1Co 6:11 
And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. 
 

The objective of the gifts of the Holy Spirit was to edify and build up the Body of Christ.
 

1Co 12:7  But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. 
1Co 12:8  For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; 
1Co 12:9  To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; 
1Co 12:10  To 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: 
1Co 12:11  But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. 

Not all members of the body had the gift of tongues but each had his own gift.

1Co 12:28  And 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. 
 

All these gifts were given by the Holy Spirit to profit the church. To build up and edify the Body of Christ. None of these gifts were resident gifts.
However, we find that scripture reveals that these gifts could be abused. The Apostle felt the need to write to the Corinthian church because of the misuse of these gifts.

 

1Co 14:6  Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine? 

It appears that in the church at Corinth, people were abusing the gift of tongues by all speaking at once or speaking in tongues when there was no interpreter present. This was causing confusion in the church.

I have been in churches like this, where everyone is speaking in so called tongues and there is no order at all. Some speaking in tongues which are never interpreted and in a lot of the churches this abuse is never addressed.

No wonder Paul said:

1Co 14:23  If 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? 

I have heard comments from people, both unbelievers and believers that have attended these churches and they said that it sounds like madness and confusion, also how uncomfortable they felt in these meetings. Some have even said that they felt scared.

What the Apostle Paul is saying in this letter is that the spiritual gifts are given for edification and building up of the Body of Christ and not to be used for selfish reasons or for some kind of entertainment.

What we have to remember, is that at this time in the life of the early church, there was no Canon of scripture. The New Testament as we have it today was not complete. All that the church had, was the Apostles teaching in either epistles (letters) or by word of mouth that was passed on through the individual churches.

The revelatory gifts of the Holy Spirit were in operation, solely for revelation of truth to the church.
Tongues and the interpretation of tongues were equal with prophecy.
God, at this time in the history of the church could reveal truth through these gifts.
If the gifts were not being used for this purpose, then they are useless to the church and only useful to the individual.
If one speaks in a tongue without an interpreter, it is useless to the hearer.


1Co 14:2  For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.

The Apostle wanted the church to be edified. All should be done to edify the body of believers and everything should done decently and with order.

1Co 14:5  I 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. 
 

However, if one prophecies and the hearer can understand what is being said, then it is profitable.
 

1Co 14:3  But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort. 
1Co 14:4  He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church. 

1Co 14:6  Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine? 

The Apostle Paul was looking forward to the time when the full revelation of God was completed, when there would be no more need for these revelatory gifts.

He pointed out that one day the revelations from God would be complete and that at that time these gifts would cease and fade away. They would not be needed any more.
 

1Co 13:8  Charity 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. 
1Co 13:9  For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. 
1Co 13:10 
But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. 
 

We know that this did happen in the early church. There came a time when the Canon was closed, when the Apostles doctrine was complete and the Word of God had come to maturity.
 

Heb 1:1  God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 
Heb 1:2 
Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; 

Paul put it like this:

1Co 13:10  But when that which is perfect is come,

What did Paul mean with this statement, “that which is perfect”?

“That”, notice not “who”. Referring to something and not a person.
“Perfect”, The word here is Greek “Teleios”
teleios - tel'-i-os

From Strongs G5056; complete (in various applications of labor, growth, mental and moral character, etc.); neuter (as noun, with G3588)
completeness: - of full age, man, perfect.

Definition of perfect (teleion) in
1 Cor 13:8-13
Greek Definition of perfect: "teleion"

1.The Greek word "perfect" does not denote the idea of blamelessness, perfection or complete holiness as our English word "perfect" does today.

Greek dictionary definitions:
a.VINE: "Signifies having reached
its end, finished, complete, perfect"
b.THAYER: "brought to its end, wanting nothing necessary to completeness; when used of men it means full-grown, adult, of full age, mature."
c.BAGSTER: "brought to
completion, complete, entire, as opposed to what is partial or limited"
d.ARNDT & GINGRICH: "having attained the
end or purpose, complete, perfect"
 

Paul is referring to the mature, complete Word of God. The Canon of scripture.
When the mature Word of God comes these revelatory gifts would cease and fade away.
This did indeed happen. After the Acts of the Apostles and what we read in the Corinthian church, nothing more is written of the gift of tongues.
Why?, because there is nothing else to be revealed.

 

Col 2:10  And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: 
 

Everything that we need, to live a Christian life has been revealed in Jesus Christ, the Logos, the Word of God. There is nothing new to be revealed. Everything that is done and said should be checked against what has been revealed in God’s holy Word.
There is no new or extra revelation to be had.

 

So, are tongues for today in our churches?
Do tongues have a place in the body of believers today?
Well, if we have all that we need for the edification and up building of the church in the Bible, what use are tongues.

If tongues are not needed any more for revelation, what are they for?

Pentecostals and Charismatic's believe that they are still relevant. They believe that tongues are either for personal revelation or a private prayer language, where one edifies themselves.

I used to believe this too but after careful study of the Word of God I have to reject this.
I don’t find anywhere in scripture that teaches that speaking in tongues is a prayer language for personal use. On the contrary, all the gifts of the Holy Spirit were for edification of the body of believers.
Tongues were given as a sign to unbelievers and to reveal the Word of God.

 

1Co 14:22  Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe. 

According to Paul, speaking in tongues was the least of all the gifts.
 

1Co 14:19  Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue. 
 

Could God still use the gift of tongues and interpretation in certain situations today?
My answer would have to be yes. Especially where there is no written Word of God.
However, wherever the written Word is available there is no need for any other revelation.

There is testimony of this happening during the dark ages. Although whether it is true could be counted debatable.
The first time that tongues appear in the Dark Ages is in the Life of Saint Hildengard, who lived in the twelfth century. She was a German Abbess who was raised in a Catholic cloister but was not educated because she was sickly. Nevertheless, it was recorded that she was able to “interpret Latin scriptures, and speak and interpret an entirely unknown language.” Her first experience with this gift is said to have came as a part of a “strange and powerfully moving religious experience, and following a long series of visions which she had not discussed with anyone.” This also
corresponds to the Encyclopedia Britannica which states that tongues or Glossolalia” was present “among the mendicant friars of the thirteenth century.”

One of these friars was a young Spaniard by the name of Saint Vincent Ferrer, a native of Valencia, who supposedly spoke Limousin the local dialect. The Biographers of Ferrer tell of his ministry reaching and converting people all over Western Europe, many in isolated areas. He was reported to have been understood in the Alpine regions and other parts of Switzerland, in Brittany and Fanders, in the Savoy and Lyons, by people who know only the local tongue. While in Genoa he spoke to a group of men and women of mixed linguistic backgrounds, all of whom were said to have heard him in their own language. The Catholic Encyclopedia notes that many biographers of Saint Vincent have held that he was endowed with the Gift of tongues. This is perhaps the closest parallel of Acts the second chapter that we find recorded in early Church History.
 

In the first half of the sixteenth century we find the same report about the two Catholic saints, Saint Francis Xavier and Saint Louis Bertrand. Both men were reported to have spoken in foreign language they did not know in the course of their missionary work. The bull by which Berland was canonized for his success in missionary “asserts that to facilitate the work of converting the natives, the apostle was miraculously endowed with the gift of tongues.”

What then, of the manifestation of tongues that we hear in today’s Pentecostal and Charismatic churches?
Personally I believe that there are many genuine born again believers that are taken up with an experiential Christianity.
I believe that this tongues speaking today is of the flesh. I believe that the Christians that practice tongues speaking are in the most, very genuine. I believe this because I was part of this movement for twenty one years and I know that at the time, I was a genuine born again believer that loved the Lord and wanted to propagate the Gospel. I was taught that I needed to have a second experience of Baptism with the Holy Spirit to receive power to be a witness and that the evidence of this experience was speaking in tongues.

I now know from scripture that when I was born again, I was baptised by the one Spirit into Christ and that I had all that I needed to live a Christian life.

Notice that in all the cases in scripture that speak about the Holy Spirit coming upon people, it says
“they were filled with the Holy Spirit”
There is one baptism with the Holy Spirit, which takes place at conversion but there are many fillings.
This is why the Apostle Paul said in his letter to the Ephesians.

Ephesians 5:18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit,

The sense here, is be being filled. A continuous filling.

We do not need to seek the baptism with the Holy Spirit as a second blessing or an experience subsequent to salvation. This is something that happens when we repent and believe the Gospel.


Acts 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

When one repents and believes the Gospel, they are born again and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
What we should seek, is to be constantly filled with the Holy Spirit.

By practicing spiritual breathing. Breathing out the impurities through confession and repentance and breathing in the forgiveness of God.
Emptying ourselves and being filled with the Holy Spirit. This is walking in the Spirit.
This is where the power to be witnesses comes from. The infilling and outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
We see this many times in scripture.

Peter

Act 4:8  Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, 
 

Barnabus
Acts 11:24 For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord.

Elizabeth
Luke 1:41 When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
 

Paul
Acts 13:9 But Saul, who was also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, fixed his gaze on him,

Stephen
Acts 6:5 The statement found approval with the whole congregation; and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit,
Stephen, in the power of the Holy Spirit preached boldly and was martyred for it.

 

More:

Luke 1:67 And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying:

Acts 2:4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.

Acts 4:31 And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.

Acts 13:52 And the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
 

Surely, this is how we can live a successful Christian life.

The Apostle Paul said that tongued would cease when that which is perfect, that which is mature came

Tongues cease before the second coming. However, Faith, Hope and Love Abide till the second coming and Love endures forever.
 

1Co 13:8  Charity 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. 

1Co 13:13  And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. 


What did the early church fathers from 100AD to 400AD believe on the subject of Tongues?

If the gift is as important as many teach, then the leaders of the Post Apostolic Age should have stressed this and commended its practice highly. The evidence, however, does not indicate that tongues had a significant place in the church from A.D. 100 to 400.

Quoting from writings of Cleon L. Rogers Originally published in April, 1965.
Dallas Theological Seminary.

Clement of Rome in his epistle to the church at Corinth never mentions the gift, even when speaking of their spiritual heritage. Whatever problems they had concerning tongues, had quite obviously been corrected by the cessation of this gift.

Ignatius wrote to the church of Ephesus where the first Christians spoke in tongues, but he, too, has nothing to say regarding the gift.
Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, wrote to those at Philippi and nowhere indicates that tongues are a part of the normal character of Christianity; in fact, he does not even touch on the subject of tongues.
Ignatius of Antioch wrote to the churches of Ephesus .
Justin Martyr has nothing to say regarding the gift of tongues.
Origen’s answer to such a charge is quite pertinent to this discussion. He says that, “though the Holy Spirit gave signs and outward demonstrations of His presence at the beginning of Christ’s ministry and after His ascension, these things have diminished and are no longer widespread.”
Irenaeus says “we hear many brethren in the Church … who through the Spirit speak all kinds of languages”. Irenaeus does not say he spoke in tongues. Second, he evidently does not classify those close to him as having the gift, for he uses the plural “we hear”.


Surely, if the gift of tongues were widespread and in abundance, it would surely have been alluded to or mentioned in some way by these early church fathers.

It is written of Montanus by Eusebius, that “he was carried away in spirit, and was wrought up into a certain kind of frenzy and irregular ecstasy, raving, and speaking, and uttering strange things and proclaiming what was contrary to the institutions that had prevailed in the church “
 

The only clear reference to anything resembling the phenomena of speaking in tongues is connected with the heretic Montanus and those influenced by his erroneous views of the Spirit.

All of the evidence points to the truth of Paul’s prophecy when he says
“tongues shall cease” (I Cor. 13:8).
 

The gifts were like a scaffold holding up the church until the pillars were completed and then the scaffold could be removed.

The pillars were the Apostles doctrine and the cornerstone was Jesus Christ.

That is why it is said that the church is built on the Apostles doctrine and this doctrine is built on the solid rock of Christ.

What is the apostles' doctrine?
It is what the apostles taught by the authority of Christ through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, as recorded in the New Testament.

We read this about the early church of Christ:
"And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers" (Acts 2:42).

So, is speaking in tongues necessary in today’s church?

I believe that where there is the complete Word of God, they are not needed. We are complete in Christ and have everything that we need for a successful Christian life. Direction and guidance can be found in the written Word of God. There is no need for further revelation or new light.

Where there is no Word of God, that is a different situation. God can do whatever He wants.

"God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform”; Cowper—1773

 

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