Given my brief reference to the Speaking of Tongues yesterday, I thought I'd expand upon that with some basic facts and Bible passages to do with the controversial topic. Personally, I have a lot of complaints about the way certain (not all) Charismatic churches have used their beliefs in the spiritual gift, but I won't get into those for now - they can be discussed without specific reference to the Charismatic church. I've already stated my opinion on the gift, itself. I came to that opinion through the evidence that was presented to me by my father, whom I greatly respect and admire for his intellect and knowledge of the Bible. However, I have not heard any one extensive argument from the other side, so, for now, I will not go beyond the basic facts.:
The main idea here is to present what we know for sure, what we agree on, or what is already presented in Scripture. Many of these concepts apply to the gifts of prophecy and healing, as well. My hope is that what is presented below will lead you to do your own research and make your own conclusions.
Basic facts or verses that have to do with Christianity and the spiritual gift of Speaking in Tongues:
- The Bible does indeed tell us that people spoke in tongues. The existence of the gift is not disputed. But many question whether the gift remains available to us today.
- Speaking in Tongues is one of many spiritual gifts, which are not all listed in the Bible.
- Speaking in Tongues is a spiritual gift that has little to no references in the writings of the church following the apostolic age.
- Spiritual gifts have different purposes and are given to different people so that Christians might work together as the Church and edify the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12-14). The flawed idea that you must be able to speak in tongues to be saved does not agree with the gifts of the body idea presented in 1 Cor.
- The 1 Cor 12-14 passage on spiritual gifts is written by Paul to the Corinthians. The context of the passages tells us that the purpose of this portion of his letter was to point out the importance of the unity of the church through love (which chapter 13 focuses on) and through the use of God's gifts to individuals.
- Tongues is meant as a sign - specifically it was meant as a sign to the Jews that Jesus was the Son of God and that His followers told the truth. 1 Cor 14:22 states, "Tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers." In Acts 2:1-4 we learn that a group of believers spoke in tongues to signify the Pentecost - that is, the coming of the Holy Spirit - the dawn of a new covenant - and to serve as a sign to unbelievers, Jews who heard their own languages being spoken. Later, in Acts 10:44-46, Gentiles speak in tongues, serving as a sign to the "circumcised" Jews that the Gentiles could, indeed, have the Holy Spirit within them.
- Tongues is for the edification of the church, not for the edification of self. That is why Paul points out that tongues only lead to confusion when used in the context of the church and used without a translator. He does not say tongues cannot be used in the church. In fact, he implies that it can be used within the church and that it can be used by the individual, but, as pointed to before, he does state that the gift is not meant for believers (so the implication here seems to be that the gift can be misused in other situations and places). Even when a translator is present, the message must be tested and weighed (1 Cor 14:29).
- Whether or not tongues still exists, God is not limited in what He can do. He can heal. He can cause a person to hear one language when another is being spoken. He can perform works of miracles.
- Even in admittance of God's ability to perform miracles, we must still line up what we experience and hear with the Word of God. False prophets exist. Satan and his demons are able to masquerade as the light. And we must ultimately depend on the Bible for our ultimate truth.
Upon casual reading, the passage, itself, seems to indicate the former. But those in favor of the latter ask, Why do we still need prophecy and tongues? We no longer are in the right time for tongues to serve as a sign to the Jews, and, since we have the Bible, we have no need for prophecy or any further revelation in the way the original church and the people of the Old Testament did. The New Testament fulfilled the Old Testament, and we have no need to add on to it with prophecy and tongues. Of course, the opposition then asks, If the Bible is for all generations, why does Paul talk about these gifts in such a way? As if all his readers would live in a time when these gifts were active?
Now it's your turn to discuss. Did I leave anything out that you've noticed in Scripture? What is your position on the matter?