Tongues – a controversial phenomena that has been part of the Charismatic movement for decades, and its popularity is growing. It has swept many denominations including conservative ones like Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterians and others in Christendom.
What’s more, the phenomena of this so-called “heavenly language” can also be found in the Catholic church and as a result, evangelical unity are made between those who share this “spiritual gift of tongues” regardless of denominations and differing core beliefs. However, is this biblical? Is the phenomena of tongues still happening post-apostles era? We will study and check against the Bible, to see if this phenomena is truly the work of the Devil or of the Holy Spirit.
Topics in this study:
- Tongues in the Old Testament
- Tongues in the New Testament
- Examining 1 Corinthians 14
- What were Scriptural tongues?
- Characteristics of tongues today
- Non-Christian religions also speak in tongues!
- Common arguments for supporting modern tongues
- 5 Biblical Denominators of Tongues
What is Tongues?
The word “tongue” in scripture is translated from the Greek word – glossa (γλῶσσα), which means “language”. “Tongues” is an old English phrase that means “languages”.
Tongues in the Old Testament
- Tower of Babel
The first mention of tongues can be found in Gen 11:1-9 – And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there. And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter. And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth. And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded. And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech. So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city. Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.
Why did God confound their language?
Purpose: So that they could not achieve their goal – to unite, exalt and glorify themselves above the whole earth and heaven, which should only be reserved for God Himself (Psalm 148:13, Psalm 97:9, Psalm 138:2 , Philippians 2:9-11).
- Judgement on Israel via a foreign nation
Throughout the Old Testament, the nation of Israel continually disobeyed God and suffered repeated devastating consequences and curses as outlined in Deuteronomy 28, one of the biggest ultimatums being mentioned in vs 45-49 – “Moreover all these curses shall come upon thee, and shall pursue thee, and overtake thee, till thou be destroyed; because thou hearkenedst not unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which he commanded thee: And they shall be upon thee for a sign and for a wonder, and upon thy seed for ever. Because thou servedst not the Lord thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things; Therefore shalt thou serve thine enemies which the Lord shall send against thee, in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in want of all things: and he shall put a yoke of iron upon thy neck, until he have destroyed thee. The Lord shall bring a nation against thee from far, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flieth; a nation whose tongue thou shalt not understand;”
This was fulfilled in 2 Kings 25 when King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon invaded Israel, destroyed their houses, pillaged the temple of God which King Solomon built, and took captive many great men of Israel and Judah.
Purpose: The fulfilment of God’s Word on Israel for their continuous sin, idolatry and rebellion towards God, and to humble them, which was later done in Nehemiah where the rebuilding of the Jerusalem wall began and the Israelites gathered to repent before the Lord.
This also brings us to remembrance of Exodus, where the Israelites were first being put under slavery by a foreign nation – Egypt. It was also during a time where God first wrought signs and wonders before the children of Israel and delivered them out of Egypt. Thus, being invaded or under the rule of foreign nation is understood to be totally disgraceful to the Jews.
In another instance, we see the prophet Isaiah saying this to Israel:
Isaiah 28:5-11 – In that day shall the Lord of hosts be for a crown of glory, and for a diadem of beauty, unto the residue of His people, and for a spirit of judgment to Him that sitteth in judgment, and for strength to them that turn the battle to the gate. But they also have erred through wine, and through strong drink are out of the way; the priest and the prophet have erred through strong drink, they are swallowed up of wine, they are out of the way through strong drink; they err in vision, they stumble in judgment. For all tables are full of vomit and filthiness, so that there is no place clean. Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little: For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little: For with stammering lips and another tongue will He speak to this people.
Isaiah 28:11 was also quoted by Paul in 1 Corinthians 14:21. We shall see as we go on, the correlation between the two.
Tongues in the New Testament
By the time we reach the New Testament, we see in the book of Matthew that Israel is now under the Roman Empire, another foreign power prophesied by Daniel the prophet (Daniel 7) who saw vision of the four beasts which represented four global superpowers, the last beast being the Roman Empire, whose dominant languages of the time were Greek and Latin. Israel at this point of time, had no Jewish king except Roman kings to rule them, and it was understandable that the Jews were looking for the upcoming their King of Jews to free them of foreign powers and to reinstate Israel under a Jewish king, like it did during the time of their fathers. When Jesus, their prophesied Messiah and King who came from the line of the kings of Judah beginning with David (Matthew 1), as seen in the four Gospels of Matthew, Luke, Mark and John, the Jews rejected Jesus and had Him crucified.
John 19:14-16 – And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King! But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar. Then delivered he him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led him away.
It is interesting to note that the chief priests, who were supposed to be the highest ranking experts in the Torah (Old Testament) and the Jewish laws, could not see from the written Word that Jesus was in fact their prophesied Messiah. They declared in John 19:15 that they acknowledge a foreign king as their king, rather than the true Jewish king who authenticated Himself through the multiple performance of miracles before them. Thus, for them to say such a thing, it was also a judgement upon themselves for rejecting Christ.
After the resurrection of Christ
The first occurrence of tongues after the the resurrection of Christ can be found in the book of Acts.
Acts 2:4-8 – And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?” Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God. And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this?
All the Jews could hear the new converts to Christ mentioning in their own languages, the wonderful works of God. In other words, the Jews could understand the tongues being spoken. They were intelligible, understandable and conversational languages that could be heard and understood by all of them, just as English, Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic are tongues. This is far beyond the nonsensical babbling being raved in the church today.
We continue in Acts 2:13 – “Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine.”
Notice there was NO mention of women having the gift of tongues (to be expanded later as we continue).
We see the parallel in We see the parallel in Isaiah 28:7 before vs 11 which mentions about tongues – “But they also have erred through wine, and through strong drink are out of the way; the priest and the prophet have erred through strong drink, they are swallowed up of wine, they are out of the way through strong drink; they err in vision, they stumble in judgment.”
Defenders of the charismatic tongues movement are quick to point out that Acts 2:13 is in fact a description to fit their unknown babbling. They misquote Ephesians 5:18 – “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;”
Common phrases such as “being drunk in the Holy Spirit” (being “filled” with the Spirit is NOT equivalent to being “drunk”!) and participators rolling on the floor, crying and screaming for joy while speaking in tongues is not new. However, the Bible is clear that drunkenness is a sin before the Lord (Proverbs 20:1, 23:20, Luke 21:34, 1 Cor 6:10) and there is no way the Holy Spirit would contradict the Word of God. Neither Acts 2:13 nor Ephesians 5:18 tells us in any way that God endorses drunken behaviour, even in other forms. Isaiah 28:7 clearly stated how drunkenness caused error in their judgement, which is contrary to the attitudes of many professing Charismatics who ‘drunkenly” defend, mock and make fun of Christians trying to correct them (below: https://youtu.be/VZkgY-bP7yk).
As we continue on Acts 2:14-18 – “But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words. For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel (see Joel 2:27-32); And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy:”
Take note of the above: Jews were present (see Romans 1:16 and 1 Cor 14:22) when the miracle of tongues happened but they would not believe. So they gave the “drunk” excuse when they could not explain why these people could suddenly speak a new language without years of training a new language. Peter refuted them by reminding that it was third hour in the day (est. 8:37:30 a.m). He further authenticated that this miracle was of God by quoting Joel 2:28 in their Old Testament scripture.
By continue reading on in Acts 2:22-47, we see how Peter persuaded the Jews with Scripture to authenticate the miracle and that Jesus was indeed their prophesied Messiah from their Scriptures. Acts 2:37 tells us that they were pricked in their hearts. Notice how the Jews were not convinced at first by the miraculous tongues until the support of SCRIPTURE was mentioned.
Place: Samaria (Caesarea)
Acts 10:44-48, “While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision (Jews) which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles (non-Jews) also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.”
We see again how tongues was manifested in the presence of Jews, and the languages could be understood by everyone that they were magnifying God.
Why were the gift of tongues poured to the Gentiles?
Salvation was by faith alone in Jesus through God’s grace, and not through works nor by circumcism nor by Jewish birth. It was God’s way to provoke the Jews who rejected the Messiah to jealousy (see Romans 11).
Place: Asia (World)
Acts 19:6-8 “And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied. And all the men (not women) were about twelve. And he went into the synagogue (where Jews are present), and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God.”
As we can see in Acts, these instances of tongues were fulfilled with the gospel being preached as indicated in Acts 1:8: “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”
The hearing of languages in one’s own tongue was not an every day occurrence. Bible scholars agree that there was a 10 year gap between the tongues in Acts 2 and Acts 10! Notice Acts 11:15-17 – “And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?”
This was not a common occurrence or Peter would not have referred to the first occurrence as “as on us at the beginning.” The Holy Spirit would come upon them with tongues as and when He willed. There is no mention of any believer trying to “practice” tongues, imparting tongues on one another through laying of hands anyhow (except when the Apostle Paul was given the permission by God to do so in Acts 19:1-12 (notice the miracles were wrought through an Apostle and not any other believer)), or having it for life.
Examining 1 Corinthians 14…
Let’s study the entire chapter of 1 Corinthians 14 (Remember Paul was correcting error in the church) Commentary is written in Italics for easier referencing.
1 Corinthians 14:1 “Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.” Paul emphasized preaching (prophesying). [In this context, “Prophesy” means to preach; to instruct in religious doctrines; to interpret or explain Scripture or religious subjects; to exhort – Webster 1828]
1 Corinthians 14:2 – “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.”
No one could understand what they were saying. Even the Spirit could not tell what they were saying. This was probably a jibber jabber type noise. It was not a known language like the Book of Acts describes.
1 Corinthians 14:3-4 – “But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort. He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.” “But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort. He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.” The tongues they were practicing did not edify the church. The part that says “He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself” as we see in later verses that it is in fact frowned upon. Charismatics have commonly misquote this verse out of context to support the need to speak in tongues to “strengthen oneself”, when the Bible is clear that edification can only come from feeding on and growing in the Word of God (Matt 4:4, 2 Peter 3:18, 2 Tim 3:16-17, Hebrews 5:12-15, Gal 5:16-26, Eph 6:10-18). (Edify = To instruct and improve the mind in knowledge generally, and particularly in moral and religious knowledge, in faith and holiness. – Webster 1828 dictionary)
1 Corinthians 14:5 – “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.” Paul spoke many languages and desired that the Corinthian Church do the same. He understood however that tongues was according to the will of God, not his. Again, he emphasized preaching above languages. An interpreter was to be used if needed.
1 Corinthians 14:6-20 – “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. 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. 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. Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.”
Paul emphasized the importance of helping other Christians by speaking words they could understand. He said they were children in understanding.
1 Corinthians 14:27 – “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.” Two or three could speak in known tongues, only one at a time, if someone interpreted. It would be acceptable for a missionary to preach in church in German if someone was there to interpret in English, for example.
1 Corinthians 14:28 – “But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.” If an interpreter was not present, the person was to be silent!
1 Corinthians 14:32 – “And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.” “And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.” “I just couldn’t control myself,” someone said after jumping a pew and speaking in tongues. That is not scriptural. One of the fruits of the Spirit is temperance of “self-control (or temperance)” (Gal 5:22-24)
1 Corinthians 14:33 – “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.” Paul described the Corinthian church as “confusion”.
1 Corinthians 14:34 – “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.” Women were never to speak in tongues in the church. Guess who does the majority of tongue-talking in the Charismatic movement today?
1 Corinthians 14:37 – “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.”
If you think you are spiritual, you’d better listen to what Scripture says and abide by it. No more, no less.
1 Corinthians 14:40 – “Let all things be done decently and in order.” God is a God of order. Many charismatic services are full of tongue-talking, noisy bands, people “fainting,” etc. They are, for the most part, not very orderly.
What were Scriptural tongues?
1 Corinthians 14:21-22 – “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.”
The Old Testament explained what these New Testament tongues were:
Isaiah 28:11 –“For with stammering lips and another tongue will He speak to this people.”
Isaiah 33:19 – “Thou shalt not see a fierce people, a people of a deeper speech than thou canst perceive; of a stammering tongue, that thou canst not understand.”
Deuteronomy 28:15 – “But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee:”
Deuteronomy 28:45-49 – “Moreover all these curses shall come upon thee, and shall pursue thee, and overtake thee, till thou be destroyed; because thou hearkenedst not unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which he commanded thee: And they shall be upon thee for a sign and for a wonder, and upon thy seed for ever. Because thou servedst not the LORD thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things; Therefore shalt thou serve thine enemies which the LORD shall send against thee, in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in want of all things: and he shall put a yoke of iron upon thy neck, until he have destroyed thee. The LORD shall bring a nation against thee from far, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flieth; a nation whose tongue thou shalt not understand;”
Tongues were a sign to unsaved Jews that God’s judgement was coming!
3000 Jews were saved at Pentecost because of Peter’s preaching on JUDGMENT TO COME. The Jews had rejected and crucified the Saviour. God convicted them of their sin! DID JUDGMENT EVER COME? Yes, it did! In AD 70 King Titus destroyed Jerusalem. No two stones were left on top of each other (see Matt 24:1-2). Over a million Jewish men were crucified across the hillside. What a devastating judgment!
When did tongues ceased?
1 Corinthians 13:8 – “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 away.”
Tongues ceased in AD 70 after the judgment came. Just because someone claims to have spoken in a language does not mean God is the author of it. If tongues were for us today, God would make it very clear in Scripture.
Paul’s letter was to rebuke those early Christians who thought they were spiritual (Remember, the Corinthian church was also very carnal) . The Corinthians had come out of the pagan Greek mythology religion that taught when you were in an ecstatic trance, the gods would speak to you.
Notice how similar this quote from Charismatic Reader sounds:
“There is a well delineated progression of events related to the entrance into orgiastic ecstasy. Ecstasy is seldom, if ever, identifiable in the history of religions as an instantaneous action. The normal process moved along the following lines: quiet meditation, audible or inaudible prayer, reflection upon deity, slow rhythmic chants, dance and/or music may be employed. Drugs or alcohol may also be utilized to assist in inducing the desired state. The state is advanced by an increase in rate of respiration and heartbeat. As the state is intensified and heightened it reaches a climax. That climax may be defined as the state of ecstasy. It is in this state that the prophetic personality receives mental impressions. These impressions take the form of visions or auditions.”
In other words, it is saying you can psych yourself up to speaking in tongues.
Characteristics of tongues today
Tongues is growing at an exponential rate in the Charismatic movement today. However, they have strayed far from biblical principles:
- Ecstatic speech or gibberish – unlike human languages, tongues of today consist of no distinguishable vocabulary and grammar, and total absence of linguistic structure and characteristics. In Acts 2, the Jews clearly heard and understood that the early Christians were speaking in their native languages unknown (ie. non-native) to the speaker himself.
- Can be imparted from laying on hands, taught and practise – God is the one who imparts the gifts and who cease them from the receiver. No mention in Scripture of any believer making decisions on imparting any kind of gift to another believer, or teaching another on how to do those miracles (if so, then it’s no longer a gift but a training).
- Spoken at anytime and any place as and when the speaker feels like it – Tongues was a gift that was imparted for a purpose and could be taken away by God once that purpose has been fulfilled, as we have explained earlier.
- Women are speaking it – in fact, it has been said that the majority of tongue speakers are reportedly women. 1 Corinthians 14:34 makes it clear that women were forbidden to speak it. Those who spoke in tongues in the Bible were clearly men.
- Can be used to edify oneself – We have shown in the above what 1 Corinthians 14:3-4 really meant in its context.
- No interpreter required – Goes against 1 Corinthians 14:28
- All speak at the same time, no order – Goes against 1 Corinthians 14:26-40
- Majority of the time done without the presence of a Jew – pretty much obvious is most churches around the world today.
- Ecumenical regardless of denomination or beliefs – The Scripture is clear that God will NOT join hands with anything that goes against His Word (Isaiah 5:20-21, Titus 3:10-11, Romans 16:17-18, 2 Corinthians 6:14-17)
- Seen as a sign of one’s spiritual growth and anointing – No mention of tongues being the ‘evidence’ of spiritual growth in the Bible. Tongues were also bestowed on the carnal Corinthian Christians whom Paul rebuked for abusing their gifts. Our spiritual growth is evidenced on the feeding on the Word of God and bearing fruit (Colossians 1:9-10, Galatians 5, 2 Timothy 2:15).
- Seen by many Charismatics to be a sign of one’s salvation or having the Holy Spirit within them– No mention of this in the Bible. The sign of salvation is purely by grace through faith alone in the death, burial and ressuraction of our Lord Jesus Christ alone (John 3:16, Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 10:9-21). Once you are saved, you are already sealed by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:12-15).
- Tongues is a sign that you’re being baptised with fire by the Holy Spirit
Another interesting point to raise is that many Charismatics see tongues as a “fire” anointing by the Holy Spirit. Charismatic influencers like Benny Hinn, Kenneth E. Copeland, Heidi Baker and others are known to call down “fire” to “manifest the Holy Spirit” upon the crowd, including tongues. The most common argument for this is the use of this Bible verse:
Matthew 3:11-12 – I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance. but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
However, a careful examination of this verse in its context shows us that the “fire” of the Holy Ghost is NOT in reference to “anointing” but to hell fire itself (vs 12).
We can only conclude that tongues today are nothing more than being psychologically induced, faked or of the Devil.
Non-Christian religions also speak in tongues!
Many Christians are surprised to find out that the phenomenom of frenzied or ecstatic speech has been a staple in many pagan religions. One classic example is Hindu’s Kundalini. Kundalini dates far back much earlier than the proclaimed 1970s “outpouring of the Holy Spirit with tongues” that was supposedly the start of the Charismatic movement. Christian missionaries in Africa have reported that many African witch crafts also produce tongues and are strikingly similar to that in the Charismatic movement. Here is one example of Hindus speaking in tongues similar to what we hear in the Charismatic movement today:
We see in a few historical accounts of similar manifestations:
- The Louviers Possessions was a time that happened in 1647 in Normandy France, where cases of demonic possessions included contortions, unnatural body movements, speaking in unknown tongues, obscene insults, blasphemies, making sounds and movements like an animal, and the appearance of unexplainable wounds that vanished without aid.
- In the book Occult ABC: Exposing Occult Practices and Ideologies – June 30, 1978 by Kurt E. Koch, quote: “I have also received several letters from brother Birch, in which he has encouraged me to continue my work. Those who are called to fight against occultism and to attack fanatical, extremist practices find that they are open to many attacks. What I like about brother Birch is that he accepts genuine gifts of the Spirit and at the same time opposes human or demonic imitations. Brother Birch has investigated twenty cases of tongues in Canada, nineteen were demonic in nature. In one case, the person speaking in tongues said, “You don’t need to text my spirit; I bring about the speaking in tongues myself.” One of the nineteen cases may be recounted.”
- In January 1901, 40 students including Agnes Ozman gathered to learn the major tenets of the Holiness Movement from Parham. In order to find Parham wondered about the New Testament evidence for baptism in the Holy Spirit. He went on a three-day trip and asked his students to ponder this question while he was gone. They concluded that glossolaliaor speaking in tongues was proof that the Holy Spirit had fallen on an individual. Ozman was the first student to speak in tongues. Parham would take this message and hold special meetings in Joplin, MO and Houston, TX. In Houston, a black man named William Seymour heard the message and would take this teaching to Los Angeleswhere he would start the Azusa Street Revival. Today many Pentecostal denominations trace their beginnings to Bethel and Azusa Street. – quote from The Modern Tongues Movement by Robert G. Gromacki
Would the power of the Holy Spirit imitate that of Satan’s or contradict the Scriptures? Absolutely not!
1 Cor 5:11 – But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.
2 Cor 6:14-17 – Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.
Common arguments for supporting modern tongues
- Tongues is a powerful heavenly language that is only understood by God and His angels, but not by the Devil and his demons
There is no mention in the Bible about such things about tongues. If this reason were true, then it poses a problem, as it forgets to factor in that the Devil and his demons were once part of the heavenly host, so by default, that reasoning should also validate that they understood tongues! On the contrary, we see in Scripture that neither God nor His angels spoke gibberish to people on earth. Whatever they said was very well understood by the receiver, just as tongues was in Acts 2. God after all, created the world by His spoken words in Genesis 1, which are clearly understood by any reader. The prophet Daniel prayed and fasted when the angel Gabriel was hindered by the Devil to deliver the message to him, no mention of him speaking in tongues to make his prayer ‘more powerful’. The Bible clearly teaches about fasting and praying (1 Corinthians 7:5, Matt 17:19-21), putting on the full armour of God (Eph 6:10-18) and using the Word of God (Matt 4:1-11) as means against the Devil. The Bible is the written Word of God that we can understand and speak of, and not a book of gibberish. It is the book that God wrote through men to men. Languages that we speak today are tongues that God created. Now that we are reconciled to God by the blood of Christ, no one, not even the Devil or his demons, has the power to prevent God from hearing or answering a prayer.
- Praying in tongues helps strengthen your spirit and get breakthroughs in life
This is a twisting of the verse in 1 Cor 14:1-4 which says: “ 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, and exhortation, and comfort.  He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.” This is in fact a hyperbole, a kind of sarcastic criticism that Paul made in relation to the abuse of spiritual gifts made by the Corinthian church. How do we know this? We read in verses 13 onwards in the same chapter, where Paul emphasized on understanding above speaking in an unknown tongue, that interpretation is required. He even said that he’d rather speak 5 words with his understanding, than 10,000 words in an unknown tongue in verse 19. Praying privately in tongues is in direct contrast to 1 Cor 13-17 where it requires interpretation, and that it was to be heard by the unbelieving Jews and that all gifts were to be for edification of the entire body of Christ (1 Cor 12:7), not for self benefit.
Secondly, no one in the Bible ‘prayed in tongues’. This again stems from the misunderstanding of verses 14 and 15 which say: “For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful. 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.” Here, Paul was giving a contrasting example (notice the word ‘if’) in order to show prayer without understanding is fruitless, that prophesy triumphs over all – as seen in proceeding verses. Matthew 6:7 warns of vain repetitions in prayer, which is the category that today’s tongues fits well in. We have to take the warning in Matthew 15:8-9 very seriously.
- Praying in tongues means the Holy Spirit is helping you pray when you know not what to pray for.
This is as a result of the misquotation of Acts 2:4 which says: “And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” The last word “utterance” has been commonly used as a stance for tongues today. However, the proceeding verses of Acts 2:7-11 shows us these “utterance” were in fact understandable languages and not the ecstatic speech that we hear.
- Tongues can be used to cast out demons
No mention in Scripture. This is widely practised in Charismatic circles in the belief that the Devil and his demons do not understand tongues and therefore, their prayers are “more effective”. As seen in point 1, that is not the case. We see that the Word of God (Matt 4:1-11, Eph 6:10-18, James 4:7), prayer and fasting (Mark 9:25-29) are effective against the Devil and his demons.
- Jesus spoke in tongues
No evidence in Scripture mentions that. Jesus mentioned that He was sent to minister to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matt 15:25). During this time, many historians agree that He must have been speaking largely Aramaic, and possibly Hebrew and/or Greek, which were the languages spoken to during His time when Israel was under Roman rule. Again, no mention of any gibberish or ecstatic speech. Every prayer that Jesus made which we find in the New Testament are understandable, intelligible speech with consonants, vocabulary and grammer that the reader can read and understand.
- Speaking in tongues proves you have the Holy Spirit within you
Nowhere in Scripture mentions that speaking in tongues is an outward sign that one is saved or baptised in the Spirit. Not all Christians in the Bible spoke in tongues. The evidence of salvation comes when one believes upon Christ alone for the atonement of his/her sins (Eph 2:8-9, 1 Cor 15:1-4, John 3:16) and is sealed by the Holy Spirit (Eph 1:13, Eph 4:30). When one is saved, he/she is sealed by the Holy Spirit and is already baptised in the Spirit, that is baptised into the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:13, Romans 8:9-11).
- Tongues promotes unity among Christians
Again, as we have seen in the Bible, tongues were a sign of judgement, not unity. Since we see a different kind of unity occurring that involves ecumenism with heretical groups, it is clear that this cannot be from God.
5 Biblical Denominators of Tongues
As we noted in the above,
- Tongues were always done in the sight of unbelieving Jews
- It was always a known language
- An apostle (there were only 12) was always present
- It was always followed by Bible teaching
- It required an interpreter
- It was not spoken simultaneously but at most 2 or 3 at a time
The day will come what every tongue will do…
Philippians 2:9-11 – Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Revelation 7:9-12 – After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.
*Some portions of this study are borrowed from the note “Tongues & Healing” (author unknown).