Is Speaking in Tongues Demonic?
Fortunately, God has given me the gift of discernment for His church body. I have been called to expose darkness to the light. I am always having to confront false doctrines of demons in this ministry.
1st Timothy 4:1 -- "But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons,"(NASB)
It is easy to discern truth from a lie (or God from demons) in things that are obvious, such as Christianity against Satanism or witchcraft. But discernment is truly perfected when it detects small, subtle doctrines that look and smell like they are from God, yet are so deceptively filled with lies and ignorance. One such case is the teaching and promoting of "speaking in tongues" by Charismatic / Pentecostal denominations. I am a stickler for truth and the accuracy of God's Word, since it is the truth that sets one free (John 8:32). Yet many people would rather base their walk with God and their beliefs on emotions or experiences.
Now Before You Get Angry...
You may accuse me of attacking you and your beliefs, but it is not my intention to hurt you. Quite the opposite! I am called to preach truth to God's people, in order to bring them to freedom and spiritual maturity, so they can experience the victory that is theirs in Christ. I do this because I care for God's people and hate what demons do to Christians. I am as bold as the Apostle Paul and make no apologies for it.
So I ask you, please read this entire Biblically-based study, including the Greek words and the original revelation given unto Paul, before you make any judgments. I pray God will remove your feelings and thoughts and open your mind to the truth. I also bind the enemy of pride, religion, false deceptive doctrines, and traditions from hindering your mind by the authority of Christ Jesus the Lord.
This study was originally written by Lehman Strauss, Litt.D.,F.R.G.S. However, I re-wrote and edited most of it for easy and clear understanding.
Tongues - A Doctrinal Study
Understanding the Truth Through a Study of the Greek Words and Their Usage
The Holy Spirit is sovereign in the distribution of any and all of the gifts. Following the listing of the gifts in Scripture, the Apostle Paul adds,
1st Corinthians 12:11 -- "But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills." (NASB)
No one person has all the spiritual gifts listed in Scripture, nor are we to seek the gifts and thus try to choose ones we want. We must be extremely careful that we do not confuse the gifts the Spirit gives to believers with the idea of the Spirit Himself as a gift to the believer. Every believer has received the gift of the Spirit in full upon salvation, but not every believer has received all the gifts that the Spirit bestows.
The term that is used to identify the tongues movement is "glossolalia," made up of two Greek words, "glossa" (language or tongue) and "lalia" (speech). It means "speaking in languages or tongues." An example is Glossology, which is a department within anthropology that has to do with the study and classification of languages and dialects.
The word "glossa" appears in the Greek New Testament not less than fifty times. It is used to refer to the physical organ of the tongue, as in James 3:5; once in reference to the flames of fire shaped like tongues (Acts 2:3); and at least once in a metaphorical sense when referring to speech, as in the statement, "my tongue (speech) was glad (joyous)" (Acts 2:26). Both Biblical scholars and I myself understand the remaining usages of the word to always mean "a language."
Jesus had predicted the gift of tongues (the only mention of tongues in the four Gospel records). He said,
Mark 16:17 -- "These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues;..." (NASB)
The adjective "new" (Gr. "kainos") can only mean they were going to speak in languages new to them, that is, languages they had not learned nor used until that time.
Luke uses a different adjective when he says,
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." (NASB)
The word "other" (Gr. "heteros") simply means that they spoke in languages different from the normal language they were used to. The context substantiates this. Notice the surprised reaction on the part of the hearers:
Acts 2:7,8 -- "They were amazed and astonished, saying, 'Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 'And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born?" (NASB)
Every person had heard them speak in his own language (Acts 2:6). Here the word "language" is the translation of the Greek word "dialekto," from which our word "dialect" comes. The two words, "glossa" (tongue) and "dialektos" (language), are used synonymously, making it quite obvious that the disciples were speaking in known human languages other than the language native to them. In verses 9-11 the languages are then identified as shown below:
Acts 2:9-11 -- "Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs--we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God." (NASB)
It was a miraculous event that enabled the disciples to speak in languages that they had never learned. Here in this Acts passage we have tongues-speaking in its pure and un-perverted form as God gave it.
A more serious problem occurs in the interpretation of the twenty-one references to tongues in 1st Corinthians chapters 12-14. There are those who preach and teach that the tongues in 1st Corinthians are ecstatic utterances not known in any country on earth (not human languages). They base their conclusion on the term or word "unknown," which appears in 1st Corinthians 14:2, 4, 13, 14, 19, and 27. But when reading this chapter in God's Word, one must not fail to observe that the word "unknown," in every place where it appears, is in italicized letters or has a footnote next to it, which means that it does not occur in any Greek manuscript but was inserted by translators. The Holy Spirit did not direct Paul to write that the tongue is "unknown."
There is no justification for changing the meaning of "tongues" in 1st Corinthians. In every other place in the Bible where the word is used, it always means "languages." Why should the meaning be changed in 1stCorinthians? There is no textual license that will justify changing the meaning of the word. All the usages of tongues in Paul's treatment of the subject always refer to foreign languages.
1st Corinthians 14:9 -- "So also you, unless you utter by the tongue speech that is clear, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air." (NASB)
There is also no reason for anyone to speak except to speak intelligibly. The Greek word "laleo" means, "I speak." The word is never used for mere sound or noise. Nor is it ever used for a mere mumbling or muttering of unintelligible gibberish. The tongues speaking in the New Testament was in the native languages of all hearing people. The supernatural event which took place at Pentecost was the exercise of a gift whereby many people from many countries, gathered at Jerusalem, heard God's message in their own language. This was indeed a miracle of God.
There is no trace of Scriptural evidence that tongues were ever heard by anyone as incoherent, incomprehensible babbling. It would be an arbitrary and strange interpretation of Scripture that would make tongues-speaking in the New Testament anything other than known languages.
The Ministry of Speaking in Tongues
Let's examine the reasons why God gave the gift of speaking in tongues:
1) To communicate the Gospel message to Gentiles (unbelievers).
With unmistakable clarity, Paul says,
1st Corinthians 14:22 -- "So then tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophecy is for a sign, not to unbelievers but to those who believe." (NASB)
The word "sign" (Gr. "semeion") in the New Testament is often associated with "the conveying of a message divinely given to unbelievers."
This is the same emphasis, for example, in the Book of John:
John 20:30-31 -- "Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name." (NASB)
The signs (miracles) were never performed without purpose, but because of the important clear message they communicated.
The true function of the gift of tongues is for a sign to them that do not believe. To exercise the gift when unbelievers were not present would be exercising the gift above the purpose for which it was given. No spiritual gifts are ever given for the self-satisfaction or self-glory of the recipients. The one upon whom the gift was given was merely an instrument through which God wanted to communicate His message.
The very reason why Paul states the purpose of tongues is because there was abuse and misuse of tongues in the Corinthian church. The spiritual immaturity of the Saints at the church in Corinth called for clear instructions. In the middle of his discourse on "tongues," Paul writes,
1st Corinthians 14:20 -- "Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature." (NASB)
The Greek word for "men" ("teleios") means "mature." In their misuse of speaking in tongues, they were showing their immaturity. This immature behavior pattern characterized the believers at the Corinthian church as it does in today's Charismatic/Pentecostal churches. Paul reminded them that they remained "babes in Christ" (1st Corinthians 3:1).
Their failure to grow up spiritually resulted from their neglect of the study of the Scriptures in truth. The Epistle to the Hebrews stresses this point:
Hebrews 5:12-14 -- "For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil." (NASB)
Also Peter wrote,
1st Peter 2:2 "like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation," (NASB)
You will always find confusion and license where the study of God's Word in truth is neglected.
Speaking in tongues was a gift given by the Holy Spirit, but it, or any other gift, can be misused. Speaking in tongues is not a mark of spirituality, because even though the Corinthian spoke in tongues, the church was unspiritual, having manifested carnality (1st Corinthians 3:1-3) and even gross sin (1st Corinthians 5:1)
2) To communicate God's message to Israel
In Acts 2, speaking in tongues was used as a missionary and an evangelistic tool in fulfillment of Isaiah 28:11. There was no need for the disciples to learn other languages before they could communicate the Gospel. God overcame the language barriers through the miracle-gift of tongues. On the day of Pentecost there were "Jews out of every nation under heaven" (Acts 2: 5). And when the disciples "began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance" (Acts 2:4), the hearers responded with the question,
Acts 2:8 -- "And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born?" (NASB)
Please note that they were "Jews" from other countries who spoke many languages and dialects, and yet each heard the Gospel in his own tongue.
In Acts 10:46, the occasion again was to communicate the Gospel, this time for the purpose of effecting the conversion of Cornelius and his house. This event cannot be totally disassociated from Pentecost because Peter, when relating this experience, said,
Acts 11:15 -- "And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as He did upon us at the beginning." (NASB)
At the house of Cornelius, tongues was a sign to Jews at a time when the Gospel was being communicated (Acts 10:44-46).
In Acts 19:6, tongues again was used for missionary and evangelistic purposes. When Paul came to Ephesus, he encountered twelve disciples of John the Baptist. He asked them,
Acts 19:2 -- "He said to them, 'Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?' And they said to him, 'No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.'" (NASB)
These at Ephesus considered themselves to be Christians because they had heard, through Apollos, the message of John. You see, there is a belief unto salvation and a belief that does not result in salvation. The latter is a mere academic, intellectual belief that even Satan and the demons have (James 2:19. cf. Mark 5:7). Even today there are people who have an historical faith in Jesus Christ as a man and even the Son of God, but who have not been saved. Paul suspected that such was the case with the disciples of John that he met at Ephesus. When he learned they indeed were not saved, he told them they must trust Christ for their salvation. We can understand the confusion they might have experienced, therefore some evidential sign was necessary.
Acts 19:6 -- "And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying." (NASB)
Again, the purpose for speaking in tongues is obvious: namely, to communicate the Gospel message.
These are the only instances of tongues recorded in the Bible, except the passage in 1st Corinthians. None of the later Epistles ever mention speaking in tongues. The gift was used only in the transitional period between Law and Grace. The sign gifts continued through the period of the Apostles while the New Testament was in the process of being written.
3) To confirm the Gospel message.
When the Apostles used the gift of tongues, it was because they did not have what you and I have today: the completed Word of God, God's full and final revelation to man. When they went about preaching the Gospel, their message was confirmed by the exercise of the sign gifts. Tongues vindicated both the message and the messenger.
2nd Corinthians 12:12 -- "The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles." (NASB)
If one could find an Apostle living today who saw the bodily-resurrected Lord Jesus, he would not be exercising the sign gifts because he would have what you and I have, and what Peter, Paul and John did not have--the completed written Word of God. Now that we have the Scriptures we, or rather God, do not need miracles to confirm God's message.
Signs were for the Jews rather than for Gentiles. For the Jews require a sign (1st Corinthians 1:22).
Let us who are Christ's not be seeking signs as did the unbelieving Jews. We who are the Lord's have the Holy Scriptures, so let us "walk by faith, not by sight."
2nd Corinthians 5:7 -- "for we walk by faith, not by sight" (NASB)
Whenever the gift of tongues was exercised, Jews were present. It was being used either to 1) communicate the Gospel or else to 2) confirm to the Jews that the Gentiles were worthy of salvation and should therefore have the Gospel also. Such confirmations are seen in Acts 10:45 and 19:6.
Mark 16:20a -- "And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed..." (NASB)
If anyone today denies the message of God's written Word, there is no other court of appeal. In the days of the Apostles however, the New Testament being yet unwritten, the Holy Spirit supported their message by accompanying it with signs. But after those holy and inspired men completed writing the New Testament, such confirmations were no longer necessary.
A significant New Testament passage, which adds to the fact that the sign gifts were given to confirm the Gospel message, is in Hebrews:
Hebrews 2:3-4 -- "how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will." (NASB)
If the Epistle to the Hebrews was written between 65 and 70 A.D., it would be obvious that the people to whom the message was "confirmed" with signs and gifts were that generation immediately following our Lord's death.
The Mistakes About Speaking in Tongues
Look at Paul's introduction to the subject of spiritual gifts. This is the only place in the entire Bible where spiritual gifts are even discussed. Paul writes,
1st Corinthians 12:1 -- "Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware." (NASB)
In the Authorized Version the word "gifts" is in italicized letters, telling us that it did not appear in any of the Greek manuscripts but was inserted by translators. Paul actually said to the Corinthians, "I don't want you to be ignorant about pneumatica" (spiritual matters), which within the context of these scriptures would, of course, would be referring to "the spiritual gifts."
The Corinthian church was well-informed as to what the spiritual gifts were, but they were ignorant about the proper use of the gifts, as is evidenced by the mistakes they made in their exertion of them.
Before Paul launches into a discussion of the spiritual gifts, he reminds them of how easily they were led astray, similar to today's Charismatic / Pentecostal churches. Paul writes,
1st Corinthians 12:2 -- "You know that when you were pagans, you were led astray to the mute idols, however you were led." (NASB)
Basically Paul is saying, "Before you tell me about your experience, let me remind you of your lack of spirituality (1st Corinthians 3:1), and therefore your inability to discern between the Holy Spirit and false spirits" (1st Corinthians 2:15). Because they were carnal, "babes in Christ" (1st Corinthians 3:1), their exertion of the gifts were self-induced by fleshly energy, not by the Holy Spirit. Not all Christians use their gifts properly, so a Christian's use of a gift might not be in accord with the Word of God. Mistakes can be made by any of us when exercising a gift.
A) It is a mistake to assume that speaking in tongues is synonymous with the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
This is an unscriptural teaching, which says that all who are baptized by the Holy Spirit will speak in tongues. The Scriptures state emphatically that ALL saved persons have received the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
1st Corinthians 12:13 -- "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit." (NASB)
All the believers at Corinth received the baptism of the Holy Spirit; however, all did not speak in tongues. The question asked in verse 30, "Do all speak with tongues?" is so phrased so as to convey the expected answer: "No."
The baptizing work of the Spirit is not an experience in the believer subsequent to salvation. Rather, it is that act of the Holy Spirit that joins the believing sinner to the Body of Christ. There is no other means whereby one can become a member of the Church, which is Christ's Body. The Holy Spirit has baptized all saved persons, but not all saved persons speak in tongues. The baptizing work of the Spirit places the believer in the Body positionally.
Many confuse the baptism of the Spirit with the command to be "filled with the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18). All believers share equally in this position in Christ and thus share equally in union with Him. There is only one experience of baptism by the Holy Spirit, but there can be many experiences of being filled with the Spirit. Paul said that not all of the Corinthian Christians spoke in tongues (1st Corinthians 14: 5), and yet he stated clearly that all had been baptized with the Holy Spirit (1st Corinthians 12:13).
B) It is a mistake to assume that speaking in tongues is an evidence of being filled with the Spirit.
All believers are commanded to "be filled with (controlled by) the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18), but nowhere in Scripture are believers commanded to speak in tongues. A Christian can be under the influence and control of the Holy Spirit and not speak in tongues (in fact, today one who speaks in tongues is not controlled by the Holy Spirit, but demonic ones as I will discuss later). There are numerous instances when the disciples were filled with the Spirit but did not speak in tongues. (See Acts 4:31 and 13:9-11). To be Spirit-filled is to be Spirit-controlled. Are we to believe that the thousands of mightily-used men and women of God, who were among the world's best missionaries and Bible teachers of Christ's Gospel, were never filled with the Holy Spirit because they never spoke in tongues? Perish the thought!
Can one know if he is filled with the Spirit? Look at one verse in the Bible where the command to be filled with the Spirit is recorded:
Ephesians 5:18-21 -- "And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ." (NASB)
Three things are mentioned here as evidence of being Spirit-filled:
1) A joyful heart,
2) A thankful heart
3) A submissive heart.
Nothing is said about speaking in tongues. To sum it up in one word, Christ-likeness is the manifestation of being filled with the Spirit, and the Scriptures do not tell us that our Lord ever spoke in tongues.
C) It is a mistake to assume that speaking in tongues is the fruit of the Spirit
The fruit of the Spirit results from being filled with the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is mentioned in Galatians 5:22, 23 and includes nine characteristics. None of the sign-gifts are included in this nine-fold cluster of fruit. The Christian who is filled with the Spirit will manifest the fruit of the Spirit apart from ever having spoken in tongues. As a matter of fact, in Ephesians and Galatians, where the fullness and fruit of the Spirit are discussed, tongues-speaking is not mentioned once. Also in the list of gifts mentioned by Paul (gifts that the ascended Lord bestowed upon His Church), the sign gifts are omitted. "And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers" (Ephesians 4:11).
All Christians should be filled with the Spirit, and all are to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit, but not every Christian has all the gifts. Spirituality does not depend on speaking in tongues. God's goal for every child of His is to be Spirit-controlled, but that goal does not include speaking in tongues. No Christian need ever feel that he is lacking in spirituality because he has not spoken in tongues, as some churches teach today. Quality of life is the best evidence of the fullness and fruit of the Holy Spirit. John the Baptizer was filled with the Spirit from his mother's womb (Luke 1:15), yet this Spirit-filled man did no miracles and never spoke in tongues (John 10:41).
D) It is a mistake to assume that speaking in tongues is an evidence of one's faith.
People who seek signs and sign-gifts show their lack of faith. It is a sin for any Christian to seek for signs before he will believe God's Word. As was pointed out earlier in this study, "tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that do not believe." You see, the Christians at Corinth were showing that they were weak in faith, and possibly some who identified themselves with the belief had never even been saved. The person who seeks a sign--whether it is speaking in tongues or any other sign-gift--is either a babe in Christ or an unbeliever.
E) It is a mistake to seek the gift of speaking in tongues
It is clear that not all in the church at Corinth spoke in tongues. Why didn't they?
The Apostle Paul says,
1st Corinthians 12:11 -- "But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills." (NASB)
The reason why all the Christians did not have the gift of tongues is because all of the gifts are divinely given. The Spirit divides and distributes to each believer his own gift. Not one of us is capable of choosing his own gift. The Spirit will not give a gift according to our desire and the way we pray. Don't try to tell God which gift He should give to you. We are but members of the Body, and no one member has any right to tell the Head what to do.
It would have been a mistake for the Corinthians to seek the gift of tongues because it is the least of all the gifts anyway. Where the gifts are listed twice in 1st Corinthians 12, in each instance tongues and their interpretation are placed last (verses 8-11 and 28-30). Note the careful wording in the latter passage: "First . . . secondarily . . . thirdly . . . after that . . . " The least to be desired comes at the bottom of the list, the scale being according to importance and usefulness. The minor place of tongues is further stressed in 1st Corinthians 14:1, 5, 6, 19. The modern cult of tongues in today's Charismatic / Pentecostal circles would have you believe that this gift is the only one that really counts and that every Christian ought to have it. The Corinthians erred in the overemphasizing of the gift of tongues as the most coveted gift of all. To them tongues was "the prestige gift," hence its misuse and abuse at Corinth back when the gift was available to be given.
Those who claim to have the gift of speaking in tongues will say that the biblical basis for doing so was 1st Corinthians 14:4, namely, self-edification. This is both selfish and wrong. Paul did say, "One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself" (verse 4), but then he added, "So also you, since you are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek to abound for the edification of the church." (verse 12). The gifts were given for the edification and profit of the entire Body of Christ, not merely one member. Self-edification is contrary to the principle of love as taught in Chapter 13, "it does not seek its own" (verse 5). The gifts were given for the common good of all.
F) It is a mistake for a woman to speak in tongues.
1st Corinthians 14:34 -- "The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says." (NASB)
The prohibition here has a direct correlation to the problem with which Paul is dealing; namely, speaking in tongues. Earlier in the same Epistle, he told the women how to dress when they prayed or prophesied in the church (1st Corinthians 11 :3-10). Therefore, he would not forbid them here in Chapter 14 that privilege which is countenanced in Chapter 11. The setting of 1st Corinthians 14:34 has reference primarily to women speaking in tongues. It is clear and unmistakable that speaking in tongues was a gift limited to men and is never to be exercised by women. So even if tongues were for today, why are so many woman doing it? Now he is not saying that women may not teach or testify or pray, but that they may not speak in tongues. Elsewhere Paul does write,
1st Timothy 2:12 -- "But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet." (NASB)
The point of this passage is that a woman's ministry must not usurp authority over the man. She may teach women or children, but not men.
If this admonition were heeded today, much of the present tongues movement would be eliminated. Women are the worst offenders in the modern confusion of tongues. The word "speak" in 1st Corinthians 14:34 is the same word used in verse 28, therefore it cannot mean mere "chatter" that would disturb a service in the church. The purpose of this entire section on speaking in tongues is to curb the wrong use of the gift. Verses 27-33 give instructions for men in the matter of speaking in tongues: "If any man speak in an unknown tongue..." (verse 27); verses 34-36 are directed to "women" exercising the gift of tongues. And if any women wanted to take issue with Paul, he would ask them one question, "Which book in all the inspired Scriptures was written as the result of the Holy Spirit revealing to the woman?" (Verse 36). It is a mistake for a woman to speak in tongues.
G) It is a mistake to assume that the sign-gifts are given to believers today.
I am not closing the door on miracles! God DOES intervene in supernatural ways, performing miracles when and wherever He pleases to do so. The matter before us now is whether or not the Bible teaches that certain gifts were temporarily given. The evidence of God's Word must be the final source of authority. I am stressing this because there are many persons who are not students of the Bible, therefore their only source of knowledge and understanding is subjective; namely, reason or experience. Whatever appeals to their reason, or whatever experiences they have had, settle a matter for them once and for all time.
It is not uncommon to hear someone say something like this: "I cannot believe in Hell because I cannot conceive of a loving God sending anyone to such a place of torment." Such persons might listen to clear and sound expositions on the biblical doctrine of Hell, and yet they will reject what the Bible teaches because of their inner feelings and rationale. And so their rationalization becomes their final authority.
Now I am not suggesting that there is no validity in experience or reason. I am quite sure that there are times when one's reason and experience are correct and therefore reliable. But neither reason nor experience can be accepted as FINAL authority. Someone will argue: "I have had the experience of speaking in tongues; I find this experience in the New Testament; therefore my experience is true." Any trained Christian philosopher will tell you that such an argument is not valid because it makes experience the basis of truth, so if one does not experience all of the experiences possible, then he does not have all of the truth. True Christian philosophy moves from truth to experience, therefore any valid Christian experience must be determined by the right interpretation of Holy Scripture. Experience, which is related to our emotions, can be deceptive, but a correct interpretation of God's Word can never deceive.
Is the gift of tongues a part of God's program for the Church today?
If it is, then we would be wrong if we closed our minds to it. If it is not, then we are wrong if we insist upon the exercise of speaking in tongues.
Turn to 1st Corinthians 13. Keep in mind the fact that the subject of Chapters 12-14 is spiritual gifts, with the main emphasis on tongues, because tongues was the one gift that the Corinthians were abusing. Chapter 12 concludes with "tongues" (verse 30) and Chapter 13 begins with "tongues" in verse 1. Obviously from the behavior of the Corinthians, they were lacking in the fruit of the Spirit, namely, love. And so in Chapter 13 the Apostle dwells upon the essential ingredient of love which supercedes the gifts, and without which the Christian is nothing at all.
Among the Corinthians there was quarreling and division, but the needed fruit of the Spirit--love--was missing, so Paul writes, "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity (or love), I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal" (verse 1). In Corinth the tongues-speaking amounted to so much noise because carnality had invaded their exercise of the gift. Even today there is a kind of "spiritual prestige" associated with tongues. For a Christian to show off any gift that God has given manifests pride that is lacking in love. Where love is lacking, the exercise of any gift is worthless.
If Christians would take seriously, within context, all of the teaching about tongues in 1st Corinthians, they could not fail to see that tongues would cease. Paul writes,
1st Corinthians 13:8 -- "Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away." (NASB)
There will always be the need for love, therefore love will never cease. But when the canon of Scripture is made "perfect" (or complete), there will be no further revelation from God, neither in predictive prophecy nor in divinely revealed knowledge other than prophecy. The gifts of "prophecy" and "knowledge" will be entirely unnecessary with the completion of the Scriptures. Otherwise, God would not have ended with the following:
Revelation 22:18 -- "I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book;" (NASB)
Paul acknowledged the incomplete nature of the Scriptures in his day when he said, "For we know in part, and we prophecy in part" (1st Corinthians 13:9), or more literally from the Greek, "For in part we are knowing, and in part we are prophesying." Then he adds, "But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away" (verse 10). The word perfect is in the "neuter gender", and therefore refers to the perfect (finished or completed) Word of God. If the word perfect referred to Christ, then it would be in the "masculine gender". The sign gifts were "done away" (rendered inoperative) with the completion of the New Testament.
So what about tongues? "...if there are tongues, they will cease" (verse:8). Tongues shall cease (Gr. "patio"), that is, they shall come to a complete halt. Who needs tongues? Only the untaught, carnal babes in Christ, for Paul added, "When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things." (verse 11).
The word "spoke" in the context can only refer to speaking in tongues. So that Paul himself came to the place of Christian maturity, through God's revelation to him, where tongues were no longer necessary. And so in the same tongues context he admonishes the Corinthians, "Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature." (1st Corinthians 14:20). Experientially, tongues cease when the Christian matures on a diet of the meat of God's Word. Actually tongues is baby talk!
Spiritual Warfare Considerations
How then can we account for the widespread practice of speaking in tongues in today's Charismatic and Pentecostal churches? Here are 3 considerations:
1) Speaking in tongues can be self-induced.
2) Speaking in tongues can be group-induced.
3) Speaking in tongues is satanically induced.
Since the creation of man, Satan's insidious master plan has been to put a veil between God's children and God's inerrant Word. It began in the Garden of Eden when the Devil asked Eve, "Did God really say . . . ?" (Genesis 3: 1), thereby raising doubt as to the authority and authenticity of what God had said. We know that Satan has stepped up the pace of his strategy.
The present generation is witnessing the growing interest in satanic activity with respect to the realm of "the miraculous." Where the Devil does not succeed in taking the Bible from us, he'll work hard at taking us from the Bible. And he succeeds in getting Christians to focus their attention on the claims of men and women about some supernatural experience. In so doing, those seekers after the experiences of others have neither time nor interest in searching the Scriptures for God's truth. They are easily deceived out of ignorance. Today's tongues are demonically induced. Many do not know this, but even those in the occult speak in tongues during rituals. Also when demons are cast out of a believer who speaks in tongues, the tongues stop.
The Church (Body) of Christ does not need a new Bible, new apostles, new faith healers, new charismatic movements, nor self-styled miracle workers. What the Church needs is to return to the Word of God and proclaim the whole counsel of God in the power and love of the Holy Spirit. We must be aware of the traps and schemes of the enemy, especially those that appear Godly and right!
Bill Niland has re-written and edited this document, which was originally written by Lehman Strauss, Litt. D., F.R.G.S.