Growing up in a variety of churches, I had always had the idea that "speaking in tongues" was acceptable for those people who did it, but another part of me thought it strange and foolish. I had no idea what to say about it, but all I knew was that it was done in some other churches, so I didn't spend much time considering it. Let's take some time to exactly what the Bible says about this.
First, we need to define what "tongues" are according to the Bible:
By these were the isles of the Gentiles divided in their lands; every one after his tongue, after their families, in their nations.
For I know their works and their thoughts: it shall come, that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come, and see my glory.
Modern-day Speaking in Tongues
||Though the word tongue can obviously mean the physical tongue in one's mouth, and some places in the Bible use it to describe a group of people, the word tongue is most commonly used to refer to a spoken language. The language that one speaks is their tongue, according to the Bible, but the phrase "speaking in tongues" has been given a different meaning by modern-day churchianity.|
"I felt the Holy Spirit come and with my eyes shut I just felt this really light and gentle feeling and saw a picture of butterflies... and then for the first time I found myself speaking spontaneously in tongues and knowing my friend Jesus with me as fear was replaced with the strong love of God. And do you know what? Since that day I have always been able to speak in tongues, not because I am any holier than anyone who doesn't... but simply because God gave me this as a gift and He wanted me to have it."
-Quotation from Susannah Clark, "Speaking in Tongues," speakingintongues.org, retrieved Nov 7, 2012
"The Apostle Paul writes, 'He who speaks in tongues edifies himself... I would like every one of you to speak in tongues' (1 Corinthians 14:4,5). With these positive statement about tongues, why do so few Christians speak in tongues? I believe the answer is because there is very little sound, logical and scriptural teaching as to the scope and value of speaking in tongues."
-Tom Brown, "Speaking in Tongues: What Good Is It?," tbm.org, retrieved Nov 7, 2012
Before we begin to analyze these quotatations, we need to remember that this letter to the Corinth is for CORRECTION, not for new instructions. Again, this is a corrective book to rebuke the church of Corinth on what they were doing wrong. Let's start analysis from Paul in 1 Corinthians 14, and see what the Bible has to say about this issue:
Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy. 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. But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, exhortation, and comfort. He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.
-1 Corinthians 14:1-4
|The Biblical definition of tongues are languages, and so far, Paul has told us directly that in order prophesy (i.e. lead Christians towards truth and righteousness), we cannot speak in unknown languages. A long-robed Catholic comes into a church and tries to impress the commoners by praying in Latin, but few, if any, understand what is being said, and they march to the tune of the man edifying himself, instead of speaking to the edification and strength of the congregation. One might say that what they speak in the unknown tongue is edifying, but it is not provable, and puts trust in man, instead of God.|
Now let's look at the verse that was quoted earlier by Tom Brown. Notice that he only quoted part of the verse, so let's finish it:
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.
-1 Corinthians 14:5
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? And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped? For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air.
-1 Corinthians 14:6-9
There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification. 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. Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church. Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret. For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful.
-1 Corinthians 14:10-14
What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also. Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest? For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified. I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all: 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.
-1 Corinthians 14:15-19
Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men. In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord. 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. 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?
-1 Corinthians 14:20-23
But wait a second, doesn't that seem strange? First, Paul tells us that tongues are a sign for the unbeliever, but then turns around and says that the unbeliever will say you're nuts?
When Paul says "In the law it is written," he's refering to the old covenant (old testament) prophets, through with the Lord God told Israel that because Israel would not listen to Him, He would speak to them in a language they did not understand. (Isa 28:11-13) God sent pagan nations as punishment to take Israel captive, and by the time the Son of God came into the world, Israel rejected Him, so our Lord Jesus Christ turned His Gospel to the Gentile (pagan) nations. Today, the truth of the Gospel is being spread by the Gentile, and not the Jew, because they would not hear the voice of God.
The gift of tongues was given to the disciples of Jesus Christ via the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and that is a common reference the "speaking in tongues" folks give for justification to their actions. However, let's read what happened in Acts 2:
And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
(NOTE: The Bible tells us there would be lying signs and wonders close to the end days that would deceive, because God is not giving new revelation until the days of tribulation.)
The day of Pentecost was a sign to the unbeliever of God's authentication, and now the truth of the God's Word will be preached by those who do not speak the language of the Jews, thereby fulfilling the prophesy. The reason Paul said that speaking in tongues is a sign to the unbeliever, but the unbeliever would call it crazy, is because TRUE speaking in tongues, like what God did at Pentecost, is a sign to the unbeliever, but that is not still happening today, so the unbeliever correctly calls it insanity.
But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.
-1 Corinthians 14:24-25
For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.
-1 Corinthians 14:33
How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying. If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret.
-1 Corinthians 14:26-27
@2:11 - "There ya go... what was I doing in the second part of the show? That's called interpretation of tongues."
In most cases, the speaking in tongues has no interpreter at all, but in the minor number of cases in which they do, most of that small minority don't put two or three in a group to interpret what the other is saying. So why are so many churches directly violating the instruction given to us in the God's Word?
But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.
Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.
-1 Corinthians 14:34-35
Some of you may absolutely despise what I'm writing in this article, that's perfectly fine, but the fact of the matter is that there is a lot wrong with what is labeled today as "speaking in tongues." However, if anyone be upset at me for the information I provided here, I am simply telling you what God's Word says, so who is it you are rejecting in your heart?
What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only? If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.
-1 Corinthians 14:36-37
Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?
But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant. Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues.
-1 Corinthians 14:38-39
Let all things be done decently and in order.
Is this understood without confusion?
If someone tells you, "I felt the Holy Spirit as I spoke in tongues," ask him/her, "Is the foundation of Christianity on the Word of God, or is it founded on how you felt?" If faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God (Rom 10:17), then our faith comes from the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ through the Word of God, not by our emotions or experiences. Remember that the Devil is capable of leading our emotions in any way he desires, so we can be led astray by them, but if we hold steadfast to the Word of God and examine ourselves daily (2Cor 13:5), we can be chastened of God for correction (1Cor 11:32), and make sure we are on the narrow path (Mat 7:14).