In the late 60s, my father was the minister at the Presbyterian Church of Whitfield Estates Church in Sarasota, Florida. There was a well-respected lady in the Church who had a great influence on the Church family. Her son and I were good friends and involved in many of the Youth Activities together. Then the lady became involved in outside activates with the Pentecostal Church and in particular the Charismatic movement of the Pentecostals. She brought her new found beliefs back into the Church and many of her friends became excited. Some in favor and many questioned what she was teaching. My father quickly became aware of the split this was causing in the Church Family. The split raged on between her following and my father’s until it began to damage the unity of the Church as a whole. I don’t know what my father said to the lady but I can imagine that it was to take her and the group who followed in her new beliefs and move on to the Pentecostal Church that she had become affiliated with, which she quietly did.

It has been a few years since then and to be honest I haven’t given the gift of tongues a whole lot of thought until recently. One of the folks I communicate within the prison ministry I am involved with was facing the same trouble that my father had at his Church. Amongst the inmates, there is a Pentecostal fraction that believes that if one does not speak in tongues he truly is not saved and redeemed. That simply is not a truth. There are nine gifts of the Holy Spirit mentioned in First Corinthians. These are the word of wisdom, word of knowledge, faith, gifts of healing, effecting of miracles, prophecy, distinguishing of spirits, tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. Paul clearly states that these gifts come from the same Spirit. Verse eleven reads, “But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.” (1 Corinthians 12:11) It would be very unusual for one to have all the gifts so it would be just as unusual for one particular gift to seal our salvation.

I don’t think the Charismatic movement has it right that the gift of tongues seals your salvation. “Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God, who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge.” (2 Corinthians 1:21-22) It is the gift of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us that is the pledge given to mark us as one of His own. That gift alone is all that we need, that gift is the power to live effective lives for the gospel of the Kingdom, and the gift of the Holy Spirit seals our predestination to the Kingdom of God. God knows it and Jesus is the rightful judge of spiritual matters of our salvation.

The first time we see speaking in tongues in the Scripture is on the day of Pentecost in the second chapter of the book of Acts. The Apostles had been waiting in Jerusalem for the promised power of the Holy Spirit to fall on them. On that day of Pentecost the house, they were in filled with a great nose and the rush of a violent wind. The Spirit of God fell on the Apostles and they were emboldened with the power of the Holy Spirit. They left the house and went into the streets of Jerusalem and began to preach to the multitude of people. There were people from all over the land for the day of Pentecost and they spoke many languages, yet they all understood what the Apostles were speaking. Whatever language the Apostles were speaking the multitudes were able to understand in their own language. This is the power that the Holy Spirit gave them that the people would understand God’s Word in their own language. This then was the gift of tongues given to the Apostles on the birthday of the Church. The Scripture records their amazement of that moment. “And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born?” (Acts 2:8)

In the book of first Corinthians chapters 12 through 14, Paul speaks of these miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit. There is an error in speaking in tongues that the people you are speaking to do not know the language you are speaking. The Apostles on the day of Pentecost spoke in tongues in order that the many languages of the people spoke would receive that Word of God in their own tongue. This was done in the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul understood this and warned in his teaching that without the power of the Holy Spirit speaking in tongues is a useless gift. “But now, brethren, if I come to you speaking in tongues, what will I profit you unless I speak to you either by way of revelation or of knowledge or of prophecy or of teaching?” (1 Corinthians 14:6) The value of speaking in tongues is that if one is teaching a person or group of people of a different language the Spirit would translate to their own language.

Paul also mentions that some have the gift of interpretation of tongues. They are able to understand what the person speaking in tongues is saying and tell the others what was said. Paul instructs them that the one who has the gift of tongues would be wise to pray that the Spirit would also allow him to interpret what he said. “Therefore let one who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret.” (1 Corinthians 14:13) The Apostle Paul came to a conclusion that fit then but even more today. Today we can find the meaning of spoken words by googling them on the internet. But even so, the internet cannot interpret the word from God through the Holy Spirit. Paul’s conclusion is that it is better to speak in a language that your audience can understand. “However, in the church I desire to speak five words with my mind so that I may instruct others also, rather than ten thousand words in a tongue.” (1 Corinthians 14:19)

Looking at our societies today there is a question if there is a need for one to have the gift of tongues? I will say that at the Tower of Babel God put up a wall between people that they could not communicate freely. You can read of this in Genesis chapter eleven. Since then mankind has been trying to breakdown that wall of languages. Today communication between the nations has improved significantly, my mother was a translator in Quito Ecuador. Still, a missionary having the gift of tongues would be a great benefit to him. Paul states in First Corinthians that the spiritual gifts will cease but that is when the perfect one comes, which is Jesus Christ. “Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.” (1 Corinthians 13:8-10) I do not believe that God has withdrawn any of His Spiritual gifts as each one has usefulness in this age. Neither do I think that God would withdraw one alone leaving the others.

If the gift of tongues is active then its use would have to be in agreement with the Scriptures. The tongue would have to be a real and intelligible language. “So also you, unless you utter by the tongue speech that is clear, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air. There are, perhaps, a great many kinds of languages in the world, and no kind is without meaning.” (1 Corinthians 9-10) The tongue would have to be used for the purpose of communicating with another of a different language. (Acts 2:6-12) If one speaks in tongues in the Church there must be one to interpret the tongue. If none is there to interpret then the tongue speaker should remain silent and speak only to himself and God. (1 Corinthians 14:27-28) The use of tongues should never be a cause of confusion in the Church. “For God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.” (1 Corinthians 14:33)

The purpose of spiritual gifts is for edification, to exhort, and comfort the Church. In these Scriptures, we can see God’s purpose for giving spiritual gifts. “But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” (1 Corinthians 12:7) “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-12) “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” (1 Peter 4:10) “From whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.” (Ephesians 4:16)

Today we do not see the gift of tongues used in the manner that it was used in the New Testament. When I see and hear people speaking in tongues rarely are they using that gift in agreement with the Scriptures. I find here in the United States there is no need for the use of tongues and when I see it used amongst English speaking people I question the motives of the speaker.

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, January 22, 2019

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