Is it Biblical For Christians to Speak in Tongues Today?

Pastor Bob Hammond

At Long Hill Baptist Church, we believe that Christians must learn to yield to the Holy Spirit as we seek to conform our lives to the words of God.  Indeed,  in Ephesians 3:16,  Paul reminds us that the Christian walk is dependent upon our being "strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man." 

We humbly acknowledge that we are fully dependent upon the LORD and the spiritual gifts that he imparts to us "For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ."

However, as careful Bible students, we must reject the teaching that the LORD is commonly using the sign gift of tongues today.   When tongues are experienced, we should be reminded to test our experience against the clear teaching of Scripture.

1 Corinthians 12 lists tongues among the so-called sign gifts:

1 Corinthians 12:8-11   "8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;  9 To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;  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 tongues11 But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will."

However, the Bible clearly teaches that tongues were intended as a sign to unbelieving Jewish people:

  1. Isaiah prophesied tongues as a sign to the Jewish people (and their rejection of tongues)
    Isaiah 28:11-12   "11 For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people.  12 To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear."

  2.  The Bible specifically indicates that tongues are not for believers:

1 Corinthians 14:20-22   "20 ¶ Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.  21 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 Lord22 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."

Just as the Bible predicted the beginning of tongues, the Bible predicted the cessation of  tongues

  1. Paul indicated that the sign gifts would cease when their purpose was completed.

    1 Corinthians 13:8-10   "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 away9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.  10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away."
  2. Tongues are not mentioned in Scripture after Acts 19

How are the tongues spoken in the contemporary Pentecostal-Charistmatic movements different than Biblical tongues?

  1. Biblical tongues were heard as an actually earthly language (not as unintelligible language)

Acts 2:6-11  (Pentecost)  "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.  7 And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans?  8 And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?  9 Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia,  10 Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes,  11 Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God."

The same Greek word used for tongues in Acts 2 (glossa) is the word that’s used for tongues in 1 Corinthians 12-14.  There’s no reason to think that the tongues that we hear at Pentecost are any different that the tongues that Paul addressed in 1 Corinthians. (D. Cloud). 

2.  The Biblical use of tongues was accompanied by an interpreter 

1 Corinthians 12:10   "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:"

1 Corinthians 14:27-28  "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 interpret28 But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God."