Tongues in the Bible
(1 Corinthians 14:1-40)
In this lesson we are going to look at the subject of tongues from the Bible. The word of God will show that tongues are a gift and a language. They are not essential to having the Holy Ghost as many teach today.
What are tongues?
In the Word of God we see tongues spoken of in three ways.
1) New tongues (Mark 16:17)
2) Other tongues (Acts 2:4)
3) Unknown tongues (1 Corinthians 14:2)
What was the purpose of tongues?
In 1 Corinthians 14:22 the word of God is very plain about the purpose of tongues. Tongues are a sign. In 1 Corinthians 1:22 we see that the Jews seek after a sign. The Jewish nation was started with signs. (Example : Moses and the 3 signs that God gave him to show the children of Israel that God had sent him).
In 1 Corinthians 14:21 we see a reference to a verse from the Old Testament. Note the reference is to Isaiah 28:11-12. In the verse from Isaiah we see that Israel will not hear. When the Holy Spirit came many did not believe but God used the sign of tongues to prove to Israel that he had come.
In the book of Acts you will see tongues used three times. All three times Jews or Jewish proselytes are present. And as 1 Corinthians says tongues are for a sign.
Acts 2:1-13 (Day of Pentecost)
- Here the Apostles spoke in their language and everyone heard in their own language.
- This was to show the Jews and Jewish proselytes that the Holy Ghost had indeed come.
Acts 10:34-48 (Peter at Cornelius’ House)
- This is where Peter was preaching to Gentiles for the first time and the Holy Ghost is given to them as they hear the word and believe.
- The Gentiles speak in tongues as a sign to the Jews that they have also received the Holy Ghost as well.
Acts 19:1-7 (Paul meets John the Baptist’s Disciples)
- In this passage Paul finds some disciples that were baptized unto John. He explains to them how the Holy Ghost has come they are baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. He then lays hands on them and they receive the Holy Ghost.
- Once again as a sign to the Jewish disciples of John the Baptist they speak in tongues as well.
Are tongues a language?
As shown in the book of Acts tongues are a language. They are not some spiritual language that only God knows as is taught today. In 1 Corinthians Paul also makes this very clear. Look at the wording used in the passage that deals with tongues.
Verse 7,8 (Distinction in Sound)
Verse 9 (Words)
Verse10 (Voices with signification)
Verse 11 (Meaning of the voice)
Verse 14 (By my voice)
What about praying in tongues?
Note in verse 14 Paul mentions praying in an unknown tongue. Many today teach that we should pray in tongues and that this is a special prayer language. They do this by coupling it with Romans 8:26 where the Holy Spirit makes intercession for us. These are not the same thing.
1) Note in Romans 8:26 it is the Holy Spirit that is praying. Paul says in verse 14 that it is his spirit praying not the Holy Spirit.
2) Note also that the prayer is understood by the prayer, Paul says my understanding is
unfruitful. That is he understands but the others that hear him do not.
So just as with speaking in tongues praying in tongues is a language not some babbling that no one can understand.
Do you have to speak in tongues to receive the Holy Ghost?
The answer is no of course not. Note that Paul says it he would rather everyone prophesied than to speak in tongues (Verses 5, 18-19). Note also in the rules for speaking in tongues in the church women are not to speak (verse 34). That would be ridiculous to say you have to speak in tongues for salvation and then Paul say women are not allowed to speak in the church. Remember that tongues are for a sign and they are a gift. If you study the spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12 you will see that you don’t get all the gifts. This is why Paul said covet to prophesy (verse 29).