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THE TONGUES ISSUE: PART FOUR

Tongues and the Corinthians:

       In Paul’s letter to the Corinthian Church, Paul enters into a rather lengthy discussion of the tongues issue.  Paul is teaching that tongues are one of several gifts of the Spirit. 

       1 Corinthians 12:1: Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant.

       After several additional comments Paul goes on to list a number of spiritual gifts one of which is the gift of speaking in others tongues. 

       1 Corinthians 12:8-10: To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.

       There are two questions we must ask here:  Is Paul discussing a different kind of tongues than that witnessed at Pentecost and secondly, what purpose was served by the granting of this gift of speaking in different kinds of tongues?  The manifestation of tongues at Pentecost in AD 31 appears to have occurred for two reasons.  It demonstrated that the promised Holy Spirit had arrived.  Secondly, it got the attention of unbelievers in attendance so they would listen to what the Apostles had to say about the Christ event.       

       In Corinthians, tongues are not seen as being for the purpose of demonstrating or signaling the arrival of the Holy Spirit as was true at Pentecost. These Corinthians knew the Holy Spirit had come and they were partakers of the Holy Spirit as demonstrated by the very fact they were being given gifts of the Spirit. However, as appears to have been the case on the day of Pentecost, tongues continue to be for the purpose of getting the attention of unbelievers. Paul clearly said, "Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers. (1 Corinthians 14:22)         

       As previously discussed, it is clear that the tongues spoken at Pentecost were extant, recognizable languages that where currently being spoken by those present in Jerusalem to keep the Feast of Pentecost.  Present day tongues speakers admit to this. However, present day tongues speakers do not speak in extant, recognizable languages as previously discussed in this series.  Modern day tongues speakers admit to this but believe the kind of tongues they experience is what Paul is talking about in his letter to the Corinthians.

        Is there reason to believe that the tongues Paul is discussing in his letter to the Corinthians is something different than real languages spoken by people on planet earth?  Are the tongues Paul speaks of some kind of worship language that is not related to known human languages?  Is there reason to believe Paul is dealing with the kind of tongues presently spoken by Pentecostals and others who practice what is technically referred to as glossolalia?

       Glossolalia is a technical word often used to describe modern day speaking in tongues.  It is a compound word taken from the Greek word glossa which means tongue or language and the Greek word laleo which means to speak, talk, chat or make a sound.  Is it glossolalia, as practiced in modern day tongues speaking, that Paul was dealing with in the Corinthian church?

       As already noted, Paul addresses the issue of spiritual gifts by saying: “Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant.”  Paul is telling the Corinthians that he wants them to have understanding regarding spiritual gifts. Then he says something that will prove to be very important to our discussion of this issue of speaking in tongues. In verse 7 Paul says “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” Paul is saying that the granting of spiritual gifts is for the common good.

       Paul then goes on to analogize the makeup of the human body to that of the makeup of the church.  Paul speaks of the many parts of the human body and how all its parts play a role in how the body functions as a whole.  He sees the body of Christ in much the same way.  Its members are its parts and each part has a role to play for the good of the whole.  Paul makes this very evident when he writes the following:

       1 Corinthians 12:28-31: And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But eagerly desire the greater gifts.   And now I will show you the most excellent way.

       It is instructive that every one of the gifts Paul lists pertains to serving others in the body of Christ, the Church.  Tongues and the interpretation of tongues are listed in this grouping of gifts used to serve others.  Remember, in verse 7 we saw Paul saying “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good." Paul also makes it very evident that the various gifts of the Spirit are spread out among the Church membership and different members are given different gifts.  Not everyone is given the gift of apostleship, being a prophet, teacher or miracle worker and not everyone is given the gift of tongues or interpretation.  In verse 11 we read that, “All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines."       

       Paul appears to be saying that it is God through the Spirit who determines who has what gift.  He concludes this part of his letter by writing about desiring the greater gifts. He doesn't define what the greater gifts are. He them goes into a long discourse about how love supersedes and is far superior to the desiring of spiritual gifts.  This discourse is seen in chapter 13:1-7.  Upon completing his dissertation on love, Paul says the following:

       1 Corinthians 13:8-10 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.

      Paul speaks of the imperfect disappearing when perfection comes. The context indicates that such things as prophecy, tongues and knowledge are some of the imperfect that and will cease when perfection comes. He doesn't identify what that perfection is or when it will come (I address this issue in Part Five of this series). Paul goes on to admonish the Corinthians to follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially prophecy.

       1 Corinthians 14:1:  Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.

       Paul then goes on to seemly contrast the gift of prophecy with speaking in tongues.

       1 Corinthians 14:2-5: For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit. But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort. He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. He who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may be edified.

       The Greek word translated “mysteries” has the basic meaning of a hidden or secret thing that is not obvious to the understanding.  The basic Greek word for prophet and prophecy in the NT has a wide range of meaning.  It can mean to foretell future events. It can also mean declaring the purposes of God through reproof and admonition.  In looking at how this word is used in the NT, it appears that much of the time it is used in the context of foretelling future events. 

       Paul sees the use of prophecy as a means of edifying others.  He sees prophecy as a means of strengthening, encouraging and comforting those who hear the prophecy.  Paul contrasts this with speaking in an uninterrupted tongue which Paul sees as only edifying the self and not the church.  Paul seems intent on having spiritual gifts edify the church and not just the self.

       Paul says that one who speaks in an uninterrupted tongue only edifies himself. The Greek word translated “edify” means to build something.  Paul is apparently using this word to say that to speak in a tongue and not have such tongue interpreted is to only build up the self but does nothing to build up the church. 

       1 Corinthians 14:6: Now, brothers, if I come to you and speak in tongues, what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction?

       Paul continues to question the usefulness of tongues if such tongues do not bring about some revelation, knowledge, prophecy or word of instruction?  He goes on in verse seven and eight to show how sound coming from a musical instrument is useless unless there is a distinction in the sounds the instrument makes.  He then says the following:

       1 Corinthians 14:9-13: So it is with you. Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air. Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and he is a foreigner to me. So it is with you. Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church. For this reason anyone who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret what he says.

       This is a very revealing passage of Scripture in regard to the issue of speaking in tongues.  Paul begins by saying, “Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying?” You will just be speaking into the air.  The Greek translated “intelligible” appears just this one time in the NT and it means “easy to understand” and is so rendered in some other translations.  Paul is saying that unless what you are saying is easy to understand, of what value is it?  Then Paul says something very interesting.

       Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and he is a foreigner to me (verses 10-11 {NIV}).

       The Greek translated “languages” here in the NIV is phonee.  As discussed in Part Two of this series, phonee has the basic meaning of sound, tone, noise and voice.  This word appears 141 times in the NT and is often translated as “voice” in many NT translations.  It is instructive that Paul, in addressing the speaking in tongues issue, says there are a lot of voices in the world and they all have meaning.  In saying this, Paul is saying to the tongues speakers that what they speak has meaning but that meaning can only be grasped if someone interprets what is being spoken.  

       For this reason anyone who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret what he says (verse 13).

       Paul understands that the tongues being spoken have meaning and when someone having the gift of speaking in a tongue does so, he or someone else with the gift of interpretation should interpret so that the tongues spoken can be understood by those in hearing range, including the speaker. 

       Some in the modern tongues speaking community argue that even though modern day tongues don’t correspond to any know language spoken in the world, it is divine language that is being spoken and this language has meaning that can be interpreted by someone having the gift of interpretation.  Some see Paul's allusion in 1 Corinthians 13:1 to speaking in the tongues of angels as indicative of speaking in a non-human language which can be interpreted by someone having the gift to do so.  Such interpretation can be given in the interpreter’s native language so others of that same language can understand what the divine language is saying. In such cases, the divine language is not being translated into a known human language but is simply having its meaning interpreted.

Translation, interpretation and transliteration:

       There is some difference between translation and interpretation. Translation involves taking a word in one language and finding a corresponding or equivalent word in another language that best matches it in meaning.  While some interpretation is involved here, the goal of translation is to find equivalency of meaning between two different languages.

       Interpretation, on the other hand, is applying meaning to what is expressed in language but doesn’t necessarily involve finding a word for word equivalency. Therefore, modern day tongues speakers believe that speaking in tongues doesn’t have to be a known human language in order to have meaning.  Since modern day tongues is considered a Divine language, its meaning can be revealed to someone who has been given the gift of interpretation and such interpretation can be expressed in the interpreters native tongue without there being a word for word translation.

       Interpreters of modern day tongues speakers believe the Spirit of God is providing them with the meaning of what is spoken by the tongues speaker. Therefore, it is believed their interpretation is not their words but the words of God delivered through them.

       Is this what Paul is talking about when he discusses the tongues issue in his letter to the Corinthian church?  Is Paul talking about Divine language being spoken that does not correspond to a known human language but has meaning which God provides through someone gifted to receive and express such meaning in a known language?

       The Greek word translated "interpret" in 1 Corinthians 12:30, 14:5, 14:13 and 14:27 is diermeenuo. Thayer's Greek Lexicon defines this word firstly as to unfold the meaning of what is said, explain and expound and secondly to translate into ones native language. The Arndt/Gingrich Greek Lexicon defines this word firstly as to translate and secondly as to explain or interpret. It is apparent this word can be used to indicate either translation or interpretation.  An example of its use to mean translation is found in Acts 9:36

       Acts 9:36:  In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which, when translated (diermeenuo), is Dorcas ), who was always doing good and helping the poor.

       Tabitha is an English rendering of the Aramaic word טביתא (aḇīṯā) which in Aramaic means gazelle. Tabitha in English means gazelle. Dorcas is the English rendering of the Greek word Ταβιθα which in Greek means gazelle.  This passage is an example of translation where a word in one language is matched to a word in a different language that has the same or similar meaning. The Aramaic, Greek and English words all mean "gazelle"

       In Luke 24:27, diermeenuo is used to describe interpretation.  Here Jesus is not translating from one language to another but simply explaining (interpreting) to His disciples the meaning of language found in OT Scriptures that relate to Him.  

         Luke 24:27: And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained (diermeenuo) to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.  

       As a point of interest, there is also what is called transliteration. Transliteration is the taking of letters in one alphabet and matching them to letters in a different alphabet. For example, in Acts 9:36 above, the English word diermeenuo is used which is made up of letters from the English alphabet that are equivalent to the letters in the Greek alphabet that make up the Greek word διερμηνευομένη.  Letters from the Greek alphabet that make up this word are matched (transliterated) to letters in the English alphabet. Pronunciation of the transliterated word will approximate the sound of the pronunciation of the Greek word διερμηνευομένη.

       Translation and interpretation allows the meaning of words in one language to be understood by those who speak another language. Transliteration allows for the pronunciation of words in one language to be pronounced in another language but does not provide their meaning. Meaning is provided by translation or interpretation.

The nature of tongues as a gift of the Spirit:

       When Paul speaks of tongues as a gift of the Spirit, is he speaking of the same kind of tongues spoken at Pentecost, the house of Cornelius, the encounter with the Ephesian men and the Samaritans?  All evidence points to the tongues speakers at Pentecost speaking known human languages.  Since Peter recognized the tongues spoken at the Cornelius event as being the same as what was experienced at Pentecost, it is evident that it was known  human language that was spoken here as well. 

       At both Pentecost and the Cornelius event, it appears that speaking in tongues happened as a demonstration and witness to the giving/receiving of the Holy Spirit. As already discussed in this series, all evidence points to the tongues spoken at these events being extant human languages spoken in the world.  The same appears to be the case with the Ephesian men and the converts in Samaria. Here too tongues speaking was generated by the Holy Spirit to give witness to the receiving the Holy Spirit. There is no Scriptural reason to believe the tongues spoken by the Ephesian men or the Samaritans was a different kind of tongues than that spoken at Pentecost and the Cornelius event. 

       At Pentecost it was the Holy Spirit that generated the speaking of unlearned language.  It appears that the same was true with Cornelius, the Ephesian men and the Samaritans. We are not told whether the tongues speakers themselves at any of these events understood what they were saying. We only know that at Pentecost those hearing the tongues speakers heard them speak in their own native language.  Whether anyone at the other three tongues speaking events understood what was being spoken in tongues we are not told. It would not have been necessary for the tongues speakers at these events, or those present with them, to understood what was being said.  The purpose for speaking in tongues at these events was to give witness to the giving/receiving of the Holy Spirit by those involved and apparently nothing more. 

       The tongues Paul is discussing in his letter to the Corinthians were not for the purpose of giving witness to the giving/receiving of the Holy Spirit. These Corinthians already had the Holy Spirit.  Here tongues is seen as part of a package of spiritual gifts given to the Corinthian Christians to enable them to better service the church and give witness to the Gospel. Is there reason to believe tongues spoken as a result of being given this gift were a different kind of tongues than that spoken at the four events discussed above?  Did the gift of tongues involve the speaking of some kind of divine language or the type of ecstatic speech seen in modern day tongues speaking? 

       Paul talks about there being many voices (languages) in the world (14:10) and they all have meaning. He relates this to tongues speaking in the church.  He talks about speaking intelligible words when speaking in tongues.  Everything he says appears to be in the context of human language and the interpretation of human language.  

      That Paul is dealing with known human languages is strongly indicated by his reference to something Isaiah said as recorded in Isaiah 28-11..

       1 Corinthians 14: 21-22: In the Law it is written: "Through men of strange tongues and through the lips of foreigners I will speak to this people, but even then they will not listen to me," says the Lord. Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is for believers, not for unbelievers.     

       Paul is reflecting on Isaiah saying that God would speak to the unbelieving Israelites of Isaiah's day through men of others tongues and lips of foreigners. The context of Isaiah 28 is a coming judgement upon faithless Israel facilitated by those speaking a foreign language, namely the Assyrians. These Assyrians were speaking a human language, the Assyrian language.  Paul follows this up by saying tongues are a sign for unbelievers and teaches that such tongues are to be translated/interpreted when spoken in a public setting or they are not to be spoken.

       1 Corinthians 14:23: So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and some who do not understand  or some unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind?

       1 Corinthians 14:27-28: If anyone speaks in a tongue, two--or at the most three--should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God.  

      Paul, in tying the Isaiah passage dealing with unbelievers hearing extant human language to unbelievers in his day, appears to demonstrate that extant human language is under consideration in his day and not some kind of divine or ecstatic non- human language.  It appears reasonably certain that when Paul speaks of the gift of tongues, he is talking about speaking in known human language.

      As already covered above, Paul writes that “anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit” (14:2). Here it appears Paul is saying that where there is no interpretation of a tongue, the tongues speaker is communicating  only with God.  God understands him but no one else does, including himself.  He elaborates on this in 14:14-16.

       1 Corinthians 14:14-16: For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind. If you are praising God with your spirit, how can one who finds himself among those who do not understand say "Amen" to your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are saying?

       Some believe that when Paul speaks of praying in a tongue in his spirit he is speaking of such prayer being generated by the Holy Spirit and it is the Holy Spirit and not Paul's spirit doing the praying.  However, Paul plainly speaks of praying, singing and praising God with his spirit.  There is nothing here to suggest it is the Holy Spirit doing these things.  While the ability to speak in tongues was a gift of the Spirit, this gift still had to be expressed by the spirit in man.  It must be remembered that tongues and the interpretation of tongues was just one of a number of gifts of the Spirit.  These gifts included wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miraculous powers, prophecy and the distinguishing between spirits (1 Corinthians 12;8-10).  For any of these gifts to to be utilized, they had to be facilitated through the spirit in man.   

       Paul makes a distinction between praying, singing and praising God with his spirit as opposed to doing these things with his mind. The indication is that Paul is saying things with his spirit that is not meaningful to his mind. He doesn't understand the words coming out of his month. He is praying, singing and praising God in a language he does not understand and neither do those who hear him understand what he is saying. Not having those within hearing distance understand what he is saying is of great concern to Paul. 

       1 Corinthians 14:17-19: You may be giving thanks well enough, but the other man is not edified. I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.

       Verses 26-28:  What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church. If anyone speaks in a tongue, two--or at the most three--should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God.

       Paul insists that if you are going to speak in tongues when others are in hearing range, someone better interpret what you are saying so others can benefit from what you are saying.  The entire focus of Paul's discussion of tongues is to facilitate interpretation of the tongue being spoken so that those present who don't know that tongue may understand what is being said.

       It is apparent here that Paul allows for the speaking in tongues in private with there being no interpretation.  However, the indication is that Paul prefers even in private to speak not only with his spirit but also understand what is uttered with his mind. 

       As a side note, when Paul instructs that he speaks in "tongues more than all of you" this is sometimes understood as Paul saying he speaks in more different tongues than anyone else.  However, he may only be saying that he speaks more frequently in tongues than the others and not that he speaks in more different tongues than the others. 

       Modern day tongues' speakers claim they are doing what Paul is seen as doing. They are praying, singing and praising God in their spirit without the mind comprehending what is being said unless someone interprets. However, such tongues speaking often goes un-interpreted. I still remember as a youth attending Assembly of God churches were numerous people would speak in tongues during a prayer meeting with no one interpreting. My parents would speak in tongues in their personal prayer at home and I never knew what they were saying. I don't believe they knew what they were saying either. While what they were doing may have been of edification to them, It was of no edification to me.

      Speaking in tongues in a public meeting without there being interpretation is what Paul is very much against. He instructs it is not to be done. Paul made it very clear that unless tongues are interpreted in the church they are not to be spoken. Yet speaking in tongues without their being interpretation is commonly practiced in charismatic groups.     

       Since the gift of tongues as seen in the NT appears to be the speaking of extant human language and modern day tongues speaking has been demonstrated not to be the speaking of extant human language (see Part One of this series), I do not believe modern day tongues speaking is the gift of tongues discussed by Paul in his letter to the Corinthians. Modern day tongues' speaking appears to be a humanly generated worship language that is practiced in a variety of Christian groups and non Christian groups such as Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism. In Part Five of this series I address the issue of whether the gift of tongues as the speaking of known human language is extant in the Church today.

      In reading through 1 Corinthians 14, it is apparent that Paul’s main focus regarding the  tongues issue is on tongues spoken in public.  Paul is concerned with how speaking in tongues will impact the church.  Paul makes it clear that he wants tongues that are spoken in the church to be translated and if they cannot be translated they are not to be spoken in the church but restricted to being spoken privately.

       1 Corinthians 14:19, 28: But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.

       Verse 28: If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God.

      For the reasons already discussed, when Paul writes about speaking in tongues he appears to be writing about speaking in a known human language that one has not learned. While it is uncertain what Paul means by praying in a tongue only in his spirit, It would appear extant human language is involved  As already covered in this series, what was spoken on Pentecost, at the house of Cornelius, Samaria and the encounter with the Ephesian disciples, all appears to be extant human language.  This being the case, I see no Scriptural reason to believe the gift of tongues discussed in 1 Corinthians is the speaking of non-human language.

        Paul insists that in a public setting, such as a church meeting, tongues must be translated or they are not to be spoken.  Paul appears to allow for non-translated tongues being spoken in private but even here indicates it is better to speak not only with the spirit but with the mind.  In other words, it is better to understand what you are speaking.   

Tongues as a witness to receiving the Holy Spirit:

      The NT Scriptures report that the receiving of the Holy Spirit by the Apostles on Pentecost and by others on several other recorded occasions was accompanied by speaking in tongues. Such tongue speaking appears to have taken place for the purpose of giving witness to having received the Holy Spirit. Was such witness limited to the occasions reported in the NT or were tongues spoken by all those who received the Holy Spirit in the early church?  It this was the case, were tongues to continue as a witness to receiving the Holy Spirit for all those who have come to Christ throughout Church history?  

       On the day of Pentecost in AD 31, Peter told his audience to repent and be baptized and they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is reported that around 3000 were baptized that very day. We can assume they received the Holy Spirit as Peter promised. Yet Peter says nothings about their receiving the Holy Spirit being accompanied by they speaking in tongues.

       When Saul was blinded, the disciple Ananias was sent to Saul to lay hands on him so he would receive the Holy Spirit. Nothing is said about Saul speaking in tongues at the time hands were laid on him (Acts 2:17-18).  However, sometime after Saul's name was changed to Paul, he does inform us that he spoke in tongues (1 Corinthians 14:18). This, however, happens well after Paul had received the Holy Spirit and was not for the purpose of giving witness to receiving the Holy Spirit.

       When Phillip baptized the Ethiopians eunuch, nothing is said about the eunuch speaking in tongues (Acts 8:38-39). When Lydia and members of her household were baptized, there is no mention of tongues being spoken (Acts 16:15). When the Philippian jailer and his family were baptized, nothing is said about speaking in tongues (Acts 16:30-34). When the synagogue ruler Crispus and his family were baptized, there was no mention of tongues spoken (Acts 18:8).

       It could be argued that in the four events described in the above paragraph, there is no mention of receiving the Holy Spirit so we can't be certain these baptized believers received the Holy Spirit at the time of baptism. However, as already discussed, in his Pentecost message, Peter told the crowd to repent and be baptized and they would receive the Holy Spirit. The implication is that receiving the Holy Spirit immediately follows baptism.

       Paul told the Ephesian Church that after having believed, they were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. Nothing is said here about tongues being a witness to their being sealed with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13)

       Paul told the Corinthians that they were all baptized by one Spirit into one body and were all given the same Spirit. Here the Spirit appears to be the baptizing agent.  There is no mention here of tongues being spoken as a witness to this baptism. 

       1 Corinthians 12:13: For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body--whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free--and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

       As can be seen, there are times when tongues are seen as accompanying the giving of the Holy Spirit (Pentecost, house of Cornelius, the Ephesian men and probably the Samaritans) and at other times tongues are not mentioned in association with being baptized or the receiving of the Holy Spirit. This being the case, we can't definitively conclude one whey or the other whether all those baptized in the early church gave witness to their receiving the Holy Spirit by speaking in tongues or whether this was the case only in certain select circumstances where a confirmation of receiving the Holy Spirit was necessary.

       It is certainly apparent that there have been multiple millions of believers who have been baptized into Christ since the first century who have not spoken in tongues and yet believe they have been given the Holy Spirit. If speaking in tongues accompanied baptism into Christ by all believers in the early church, I would have to conclude this was a temporary dynamic to give confirmation to those coming into the Church that what they were getting into was genuine.  

       As already discussed, the tongues Paul speaks of in his letter to the Corinthians is not tongues spoken to demonstrate/confirm the giving of the Holy Spirit but the giving of one of several gifts by the Spirit to those who already have the Holy Spirit. Both prior to and after saying they were all baptized by one Spirit into one body; Paul discusses the issue of spiritual gifts. One of these gifts is tongues.  Let's again take a look at what Paul wrote.

       1 Corinthians 12:8-11: For one person is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, and another the message of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another performance of miracles, to another prophecy, and to another discernment of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. It is one and the same Spirit, distributing as he decides to each person, who produces all these things (NET).

       1 Corinthians 12:27-31: Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues ? Do all interpret? But eagerly desire the greater gifts.

       The clear indication is that different gifts are given to different people and not all receive all the gifts. It is evident that the Spiritual gift of tongues is not a requirement for receiving the Holy Spirit.  If it were a requirement, then all these Corinthians and all other converts to Christianity would have had to have this gift.  Yet Paul clearly teaches that tongues, as is true of all the other gifts, are selectively given by the Spirit.  Not all had the gift of tongues and yet all had been baptized by the one Spirit into the one body. 

       Therefore, the gift of tongues cannot be seen here in Corinthians as it being a witness to receiving the Holy Spirit.  These Corinthian converts had already received the Holy Spirit at some time prior to Paul's letter to them. Paul could not have told them they had all been baptized by one Spirit into one body if they had not already received the Holy Spirit. Paul is here dealing with the assignment of spiritual gifts after having received the Holy Spirit. Tongues are one of those gifts. 

       As cited earlier, Paul says, “Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers” (14:22). Paul sees tongues being for the purpose of being a sign to unbelievers. This is exactly how they were used in the Pentecost and Cornelius events.  At Pentecost, tongues were a sign that led to thousands of unbelieving Jews becoming believers. Cornelius was not a believer until Peter preached the gospel to him. Tongues then confirmed to the skeptical Jews that had come with Peter that Gentiles were to be equal recipients with the Israelite's as to salvation through Christ.  More often than not, modern day tongue speaking is done by believers in the presence of other believers with the total absence of unbelievers.   

       It appears that tongues was a gift given to some first century Christians to serve as a means of turning unbelievers into believers. Those having this gift appear to have been misusing it at times and that is why Paul had to provide guidance as to how this gift was to be used. Speaking in unlearned tongues in the presence of unbelievers was seen of value only if they were translated into languages understood by those unbelievers hearing the tongues.  

Summery:

       All evidence points to speaking in tongues as seen in the NT church as the speaking of known human languages. There is no good reason to believe the gift of tongues that Paul talks about is a different kind of tongues (something other than extant human language) from that spoken at Pentecost, the house of Cornelius, with the Ephesian men or possibly the Samaritans. The tongues spoken at these events were extant human languages.

       This being the case, modern day tongues speaking is not what was practiced in the NT church as it has been demonstrated that modern day tongues speaking does not correspond to any extant human language. Therefore, the tongues spoken by tongues speakers today does not appear to be the spiritual gift of tongues seen in the NT.  

       Furthermore, it’s been demonstrated that the kind of tongues speaking presently practiced within the Christian community is no different than that practiced by some non-Christian peoples.  This being the case, one has to question what dynamics are involved when non-Christians speak in the same kind of tongues as is seen among modern day Christians who engage in this practice. Why would God’s Spirit facilitate tongues speaking in Buddhism or Hinduism?  Tongues speaking, as practiced by some Christians, can be found in both these religious systems.            

       As we have discussed, it is evident that speaking in tongues is not a necessary witness to having received the Spirit of God.  Speaking in tongues is not what designates one as a Christian. By and large, modern day Christians who speak in tongues or seek to speak in tongues agree with this assessment.  They don't believe you must speak in tongues to receive the Holy Spirit.  They believe they receive the Spirit of God upon repentance and accepting Christ as savior.  Their seeking of the Holy Spirit witnessed by speaking in tongues is considered an additional blessing enabling them to live a more profound Christian life.

       The problem with this perspective is that the Scriptures don't teach any such thing. As previously discussed, there is nothing in Scripture teaching we should seek speaking in tongues as a sign of being given a greater presence of the Holy Spirit or being given a special blessing so we can live a better Christian life.  While there are exhortations in Scripture to stir up the Spirit of God, there is nothing in Scripture suggesting this is done or witnessed by speaking in tongues. 

       While it is true Paul exhorted the Corinthians to eagerly desire spiritual gifts of which tongues was one of them, Paul also made it clear that tongues, like other gifts of the Spirit, was a gift given to some and not to others.  While Paul appears to see this gift being used in private communication (prayer) with God, Paul teaches that its primary purpose is to edify the Church and function as a sign to bring unbelievers to Christ. Paul clearly instructs that unless tongues spoken in public are translated/interpreted, they are not to be spoken.

       In modern day Pentecostalism, tongues are commonly spoken in public gatherings such as church services, prayer meetings and other group meetings.  While at times there is "interpretation" of such tongues, often there is no interpretation. This would appear to be in direct violation of Paul's instruction as to how tongues are to be used. 

        While there are some reported instances of Christians and others speaking in a known human language they have not learned, historically, tongues, as the speaking of unlearned but extant human languages, has not been seen in Christianity over the past 2000 years. Instead, what has been seen over the past 2000 years are periodic outbreaks of the ecstatic speech kind of tongues seen in segments of present day Christianity and some non-Christian groups as well. This kind of tongues has always been a minority practice among Christians and appears largely limited to charismatic groups.  

      This being said, what happened to the gift of tongues Paul writes about to the Corinthian Christians? What happened to this gift of speaking unlearned but extant, recognizable human languages?  This kind of tongues speaking does not appear to be available since the days of the NT Church.  What about the other spiritual gifts extant in the NT Church?  Have they been available since the first century?   In Part Five of this series, we will address this issue.

PART FIVE