THE FAILURE OF UNKNOWN TONGUES TO FULFILL THE
COMMISSION OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST.
“And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” —Mark 16:15
The true Biblical gift of speaking in tongues (languages) is given so the Church can more effectively fulfill the Great Commission. There was never any intent to make tongues a focal point in the worship service. When the Church at Corinth made it so, they were sharply rebuked and given specific guidelines. They were re-educated about the people to whom tongues (languages) were directed—the lost, in 1 Corinthians 14:22—
“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. “
From the very first time the Bible mentions tongues, they were shown to be communicating the Gospel to the lost. On the Day of Pentecost when the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke with tongues, that gift of languages allowed their lost listeners in Jerusalem to hear the Gospel in the language of birth.
The idea of “speaking in an unknown tongue” is simply an idea brought about because men will not accept the authority of God’s Word. Now, it is true that the “experience” of speaking in an ‘unknown tongue” for some might be exciting and thrilling; but, it is nothing more than that, and causes Christians who are weak in the faith to place more trust in the preacher who told them about “the Baptism” than in the authority of the Bible.
That is a frightening, but characteristic pattern in the unknown tongues movement. It seems that as people get deeper and deeper into regular “experiences,” they place more and more authority on the preacher’s interpretation and their own personal pleasure and experiences rather than relying upon the Holy Spirit. But look at the Word of God . . . with an open heart and an open mind. If you do, you will discover that the real Spirit-filled life is much more blessed, exciting, and lasting than a counterfeit emotional experience !
Many preachers have attempted to connect speaking in an unknown tongue with what they refer to as the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit.” Honest Bible study will clarify the truth. First of all, the legitimate Spirit-given gift of speaking in tongues is a gift given to Believers according to the specific plan for an individual by the Holy Spirit. I Corinthians Chapter 12 deals with the fact that each of the spiritual gifts are personally given by Him, and no one is given all of them, and not everyone receives the same gift. So, we then understand that there are some who do NOT have the gift of speaking in tongues. Should they spend their lives seeking that gift when the Spirit wisely chose to give them a different gift ?
Biblically, not everyone who is baptized into Christ (whether by water or by Spirit, or both) speaks in tongues. In the case of the Philippian jailer, we have people being truly saved, changed, and rejoicing, but not speaking in tongues. Acts 16:31-34 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.
If speaking in tongues (or other languages) was a gift which all people receive when they are filled with the Holy Spirit, then I Corinthians 12 is wrong…and that cannot be. That section of Scripture teaches that the gifts are not given equally to all people, but according to the discernment and will of the Spirit of God.
Of course, the other issue, which we will not deal with in this course, is the misunderstanding of what the Baptism of the Holy Spirit actually is. What took place on Pentecost was primarily the FILLING of the Holy Spirit, as seen by the Scripture itself. Acts 2:4 “And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” But, that is another issue where many preachers from the West have failed to do their homework, and have merely parroted what someone else told them. It is not one which we will deal with in this course.
There isn’t nearly so much in the Bible concerning the gift of speaking in tongues as there is about God’s forgiveness, sanctification, godliness, faith, hope, healing, prayer, etc. There are only two major areas dealing with the subject, and one of those (1 Corinthians 14) deals with the immature church’s improper use of the gift. It is truly unfortunate that something which occupies so little attention in the Bible is receiving the majority of attention in many churches ! If we honestly compare the Biblical gift of speaking in tongues (from the Greek word, meaning, ‘literal language’), with that which is called “speaking in tongues” today, we would find that there is little, or no area of similarity !
Acts 2:1-17 reveals that the tongues given to the disciples at Pentecost were literal languages, understood by the people without the aid of an interpreter. 1 Corinthians 14:27 points out the need for an interpreter at the church, because the languages being spoken were, perhaps primitive origins of German, Italian, English, French, etc. But an interpreter was needed here because the people understood only Greek ! Keep in mind, though, that the gift was still present to speak in literal foreign languages. They were not babbling some unintelligible gibberish. The Greeks did have a word which describes the babbling that today’s churches call, “speaking in an unknown tongue” but it is never used anywhere in the Bible and therefore cannot apply to the gift of tongues. So, we are left to conclude that when the Bible speaks about tongues, it always means, a literal language.
Language professors at some of the great universities in the United States have investigated the “tongues-movement” extensively and have agreed conclusively that whatever is being spoken in many of those churches, it is certainly not a literal language ! Exhaustive investigations were carried out where professors who were fluent in many languages attended church meetings. Now, these investigations were great opportunities for the Church to reach these lost university professors for Christ. Instead, because what the professors found was that there were no real languages being spoken, they went away more convinced than ever that Christians were basing their faith on nonsense. These churches which used fraudulent unknown tongues had solidified the rejection of Christ by those investigators.
On the other hand, it should be noted that there have been some cases where a literal language was spoken by the gift of tongues, but these incidents were few and rare.
We must keep in mind that Satan has always been a great imitator. The Bible tells us that he desired to “be like the Most High” (Isaiah 14:14). So, whatever Jesus does, he tries to copy, in his own evil and deceptive manner. One report, coming from New York City, tells of a woman who spoke in tongues . . . In the Hebrew language. A Hebrew scholar was present at the meeting, and noted that the so-called interpreter at the church did not translate correctly one single word. The scholar stated that the woman was blaspheming God in the Hebrew language, while the interpreter was saying that it was praise ! How often does this happen in tongues-speaking churches, and no ones it ? Would YOU know if a person, claiming to speak in tongues, was blaspheming or praising God if you didn’t understand what they were saying. Most would not. It was later determined that the woman who was speaking Hebrew and blaspheming God was an illiterate house-cleaner who never learned any language except English, and that she was demon-possessed.
If you have examined Acts, Chapter Two, carefully and honestly, you will have found nothing similar to today’s so-called, “speaking in unknown tongues.” If you observe the account in 1 Corinthians 14, however, you will note several similarities. None of them deal with the actual speaking in tongues; for you must remember that today’s “unknown” tongue is not at all the same as Corinth’s literal languages, which was the genuine gift of tongues.
Speaking in an unknown tongue fails to meet the Biblical test of communicating the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the lost. Even if that was the only evidence (which it is not) that this was an erroneous doctrine, it would be wrong to hold it.
WHAT HARM CAN A LITTLE FALSE DOCTRINE DO ?
Let’s look at one of the typical tongues-speaking church services. Generally, there is enthusiasm from the time you walk in the doors. But, how much is developed by a sincere love for the Lord, and how much comes from a desire for mere fleshly emotional excitement varies from church to church. The service may open with songs of praise, a word of welcome, and prayer. After a usually short message there is prayer, and an invitation. However, many times, a message is not finished before someone interrupts with their own version of “tongues.” That person might stand up, holding hands up in the air, and begin to shake violently.
Attention immediately is drawn away from the Word of God, and on to a human being. Now, that is sin ! Even if that person remains in his or her seat (which is rare; since many will run around, fall in the aisle, or continue screaming until all attention is upon them) the damage has been done, and people have been distracted from God’s Holy Word. That is nothing less than sin. We have enough attention today in church placed upon people ! We need more – much more – attention placed upon the Lord. Now, I don’t care how godly these folks are that scream and draw attention from the Word are. I don’t care how much they might claim that they are under the control of the Holy Spirit – any time that attention is drawn away from the Son of God, it is NOT of God, it is of Satan ! Such distraction and confusion within the church is one great similarity between many of today’s charismatic churches, and the Corinth church. Paul condemns it in the church in Corinth, and the Word of God condemns it today ! 1 Corinthians 14:30-33, 40 makes this crystal clear !
We are called, as a Church—Christ’s Body—to exalt Him, and not ourselves. Colossians 1:18 “And He is the head of the body, the Church: Who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things He might have the preeminence.” John the Baptist said it well—John 3:30 “He must increase, but I must decrease.” Again, we are reminded in 1 Peter 4:11 “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”
Distractions which pull attention away from the teaching and preaching of the Word are not from God, and pastors are authorized to rebuke such behaviors.
Similarities exist between many of today’s “unknown tongues-speaking” churches, and the church at Corinth. Notice the reprimand for women to keep silence in the church (14:34). Evidently, women must have been the great “tongues-speakers” then, as they are today ! Many of these churches will often brag about the number of people that they see leave the church in disgust, and to try and ease their own consciences, they blame it on the godly way that they claim to live. However, Paul gives the reason for those who walk off from the church in 1 Cor. 14:23
“If, therefore, the whole church come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad ?”
Yes, there are similarities between many of the US churches in the charismatic movement and the church at Corinth. But all of them are because they both were immature churches ! There is, however, no similarity at all between the gift of tongues at Corinth, and the “unknown tongues” of today.It would be a natural reaction for a person to be frightened away by such behavior. But, my friend, listen. Most people think that all churches are alike (most lost people, that is), and if they are turned away by the tongues churches because of unscriptural behavior, chances are, they will not listen to the Gospel any more. This writer knows of people who were so baffled and repulsed by such emotional and unscriptural displays that they based their rejection of Christ on that ! Oh, precious souls are going to Hell because some people won’t stop their foolishness ! Accept what the Bible says about “speaking in tongues,” and stop trusting in the words of human beings . . . no matter how righteous they might appear !
The harm done is manifold. Outsiders are repulsed from Christ (although they may come in great numbers to such a church for the entertainment). The Spirit of God is grieved because sin has been accepted as truth, and the church failed to correct it. Does that effect the prayers of the saints ? (Psalms 66:18 If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.) If the Lord’s anger stirred against a church which would be satisfied with anything less than the real work of His Spirit ? How could He be satisfied with His Bride accepting a substitute ?