Many of my Christian friends speak in tongues. Why does our church say it is wrong? Speaking in tongues is just one aspect of the charismatic movement which began as Pentecostalism in about 1900. The movement is a confused hotch-potch of doctrines and practises which has permeated much of the modern church. That is, most churches are influenced by charismatic ideas to some degree.
The larger picture
While many Charismatics claim to be Bible-based, the movement is based on the proposition that God talks directly to people through His Holy Spirit, so people have personal revelation alongside Biblical revelation. This fulfils 1 Timothy 4:1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons. and 2 Timothy 4:3-4 The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside into fables. Jesus said It is written ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’ (Matthew 4:4)’ In the context, it is the written word of God which has authority. We maintain that there is no authority outside of the words of scripture. We maintain modern prophecies and visions are at best self-deception and at worst demonic in origin. We reject them because they can’t be proved. II Kings 13 reports the witness of a young true prophet, who was deceived by an older false prophet, who lied. If you come to me with a prophecy, how can I ascertain whether it is true? I will therefore reject it unless it is the clear teaching of Scripture.
What is tongues?
Biblical tongues are earthly languages, understood by at least some of those present, if not by the speaker. The message was always praised to God. Acts 2:4-12, Acts 10:44-46, Acts 19:2-6.Modern tongues are usually gibberish, words of no meaning to anyone, either deliberate Mubmo-jumbo or some kind of physiological response to certain psychological stresses. However, there is evidence that at least sometimes they are demonic – especially when they involve cursing Christ in real languages. Languages were created by God. When God created Adam, he could speak. God confused the languages of men at the tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9) because they refused to disperse around the world. In the future (Millenium) men will again worship God in a single pure language (Zephaniah 3:9, Hebrew?). The knowledge of God in the Old Testament was maintained by the Israelites in Hebrew. When it came time to proclaim the gospel of salvation through believing in Jesus Christ, the message was given in Gentile languages. Mark 16:14-20 records that the apostles were given signs to authenticate their message, including the ability to speak gentile languages fluently. The same passage recounts the fulfilment of the prophecy. The message is now established in the written Scriptures of the New Testament (there is nothing to be added – Revelation 22:18). While we have the responsibility of passing it on, we do not have the signs given to us (when did you last drink a deadly thing?). Signs are in fact limited in the bible to 3 particular periods: Moses, Elijah/Elisha and Jesus/apostles, and always directed to the Jews. The sign of tongues confirmed the formation of the church, as a company of believing Jews and Gentiles united in one body through faith in Jesus Christ. ‘Speaking in Tongues’ was not a normal part of Christian worship, either private or public. In Acts 11:15-17 and 15:9-11, Peter likens the events in Acts 10 to the events in Acts 2, that was the only precedent.
What about the gift of tongues?
1 Corinthians 12-14 shows there was a spiritual gift of ‘speaking in tongues’ which was misused and causing trouble in the Corinthian church. Paul challenges those with the gift to exercise self-control.
It is a gift (12:7); i.e. given at the will of God, not the request of men, for the edification of other believers (not the speaker),
It is not universally given (12:30).
Its function was as a sign to unbelieving Jews(14:22).
It was not to be used in the assembly unless there was a translator translating the message (14:27).
It will cease (13:10 stop being used).
It is evident these where gentile languages which could be translated into the lingua franca. They were there to convince sceptical Jews that this movement was of God.
It is claimed that ‘speaking in tongues’ is evidence of the ‘baptism of the Holy Spirit’, even that you are not saved if you have not spoken in tongues. This contradicts scripture. Jesus said by their fruit shall ye know them (Matthew 7:16-17).Many charismatic services major on fulfilling the lusts of the flesh with dancing and music. This is not taking up the cross daily and following me (Luke 9:23). It contradicts the whole tenor of what ‘walking worthy of Christ’ is all about (see for example Romans 13:14, Ephesians 4, 5:1-21). The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, meekness, self-control. (Galatians 5:22). It is evident that Christians who have accepted the doctrine do not have a super spiritual life. Some are very zealous, but zeal without the truth is vain (c.f. Romans 10:2). Many, after a period of hype, drop right out of Christian service. Others try and follow faithfulness to Scripture and tongues, leading to confusion. Some seem never to appreciate that they were called to suffer with Him that they might be glorified with Him.
Our role is not to judge or condemn, but to teach the truth and urge people to follow it. We do not stop charismatics from visiting us, provided they do not insist on teaching charismatic doctrine (privately or publicly). However, we do not expect they can continue to fellowship with us unless they renounce tongues because the underlying differences are very fundamental (see 1 John 2:19).ARG 5Feb2006