The Blessed Person and Work of God the Holy Spirit

Lesson 14--The Gift of Tongues


 What Does the Bible Teach
About This Controversial Gift?

1. Have you received the Holy Spirit?

This is a question Charismatic people often will ask. What they really mean by the question is this: "Have you had the baptism of the Spirit, the Charismatic experience of speaking in tongues?"

Let's go back to the basic question, "Have you received the Spirit?" What is the Bible's answer? In 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 we learn that the Corinthians, even the carnal Corinthians (1 Cor. 3:1-3), had the Holy Spirit in them: "What? know ye not that your body is the ______________________________________ which [who] is in _______, which ye have of [from] God, and ye are not your own?"   Obviously they had received the Holy Spirit the moment they were saved.  It is something that is true of every believer in Christ.

John 7:38-39 is a key passage. Notice carefully what it says about receiving the Spirit. Those who BELIEVE are those who RECEIVE. If you have B____________________ on Christ then you have R___________________ the Spirit. There is no such thing as a believer who has not received the Spirit. Thus, the key question is not, "Have you received the Spirit?" but it is "Have you received the Lord Jesus Christ?" (see John 1:12).   If you have Christ, then you have the Holy Spirit also!


2. How do you know that the Holy Spirit dwells within you?

The Charismatic answer:

"How do I know that the Holy Spirit dwells within me?" Charismatic Renewal offers an answer to this question—the baptism of the Holy Spirit, a powerful experience that convinces the recipient that God is real.  [Richard Quebedeaux, The New Charismatics, original edition, page 2.]

In other words, "I know that it is true because I have experienced it. I have felt it. It has happened to me!  I have spoken in tongues!"

The Biblical answer is found in Romans 8:9--"But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the _________________ of God ______________ in _____. Now if any man have not the __________________ of Christ, he is none of His." If a person does not have the Holy Spirit, then he is not His. He does not belong to Christ. He is not a Christian. If I am a saved person, then I have the Holy Spirit. How do I know? I know so because God says so. All who believe on Christ have received the Spirit (John 7:39). Paul said, "The Holy Spirit dwelleth _______ us" (2 Timothy 1:14) and this is true of every blood-bought child of God. According to God's definition (1 Cor. 6:19; Rom. 8:9; John 7:39; etc.), a Christian is one who is indwelt by the Holy Spirit and thus has received the Spirit. There is no such thing as a person who is justified by faith but who has not received the Spirit.

The fact of the Spirit's reception and indwelling presence is not based on some subjective and questionable experience. It is based upon the plain statements of the Word of God.

3. Did your salvation package include the gift of the Holy Spirit?

Do you have a full and complete salvation or are there certain things that are missing? The Word of God teaches that our salvation package is full and complete. When we received Christ by faith (John 1:12), we also received all that comes with Christ, including the following:

Complete forgiveness of sins (Eph. 1:7)
Membership in the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13)
Entrance into the family of God (John 1:12)
Peace with God (Romans 5:1)
The gift of eternal life (1 John 5:11-12)

[See our paper 215 Things That Are True of Me Now That I Am Saved]

Is the blessed Person and Presence of the Holy Spirit included in our initial salvation package or is the reception of the Spirit something not to be realized until some later time? This is answered in Romans 5:5--"And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is [past tense, 'was'] given unto us" (Romans 5:5).  Based on this verse, was the Holy Spirit given to you at the point of salvation or is the Spirit to be received sometime after salvation? ______________________________________________________________

Our Charismatic friends often speak of a "full gospel." By using this term they imply that others do not have a full gospel: "The simple preaching of Christ and the cross is not enough. Simple salvation in Christ is not enough. There is more that you need. You need to have the Pentecostal experience of speaking in tongues, etc." Compare 1 Corinthians 2:2.

To counter this, we would suggest that Charismatics do not have a FULL and complete salvation package. It is deficient. It is lacking. It is missing some very important items. They say you can be saved but not have the Holy Spirit. They say you can be saved but not have the baptism of the Spirit. They say that you can be saved and not have certain gifts that you need.

The salvation that is found in Jesus Christ is full and complete, lacking nothing. When a person receives Christ he receives everything else that comes with Christ: "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us ______    ______________?" (Rom. 8:32) The key to the Christian life is not to try to get additional gifts and additional blessings. The key to the Christian life is to grow in Christ and to discover all that we already have in Him. The key to the Christian life is to learn how rich in Christ we really are! We are spiritual billionaires and often we don't even know it!

A challenge to our Charismatic friends: "Could you tell me one thing that I need as a believer that is not found in Jesus Christ? Can you think of one thing that I really need that I do not already have in Christ?"


4. Should believers look for a second blessing?

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with _______ SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS in heavenly places IN CHRIST" (Eph. 1:3). Every spiritual blessing is ours, and it is found in Christ. To get a glimpse of some of these blessings, see our paper, 215 Things That Are True of Me Now That I Am Saved.  One believer said, "If you are only on your second blessing, I pity you!"

How richly blessed are believers? Christ became poor so that we could become rich in Him (2 Cor. 8:9). Paul told the Corinthians, who had problems with carnality, that they were ENRICHED by Christ, so that they came behind in no gift (1 Cor. 1:5,7). The believer is "complete in Him" (Col. 2:9).  If we are complete in Christ, then how can we be lacking a second blessing? The Bible teaches in Romans 8:32 that along with Christ God has freely given us ALL THINGS. We are not missing a second blessing experience, but as believers we often fail to claim the riches that we already have because of the riches of God's grace. We fail to possess our possessions!

5. What is the evidence or proof of having received the Spirit?

What evidence or proof can you provide that indicates that you have received the Holy Spirit? Our Charismatic friends often point to speaking in tongues (the baptism of the Spirit) as the evidence that one has received the Spirit. But what saith the Scriptures?

"But the _______________________________________ is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law" (Gal. 5:22-23).

If you truly have received the Spirit, then should we not expect to see the fruit of the Spirit in your life? If you claim to be an apple tree, show some apples! If you claim to have the Holy Spirit of God, show the fruit of the Spirit!

"For this is the will of God, even your sanctification [holiness, same word as in verse 7], that ye should abstain from fornication... For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto _____________________. He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his Holy _______________" (1 Thess. 4:3,7,8). The evidence of having received the Holy Spirit is a holy life. If I have truly received the Holy Spirit, am I not responsible to live a holy life? Compare 2 Timothy 2:19--"Let those who name the Name of Christ depart from iniquity."

"And grieve not the ___________ Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption" (Eph. 4:30). If you have received the Holy Spirit and you are a child of God, how do you feel when you are disobedient to the Lord and not doing those things that are pleasing in His sight? Are you not bothered and convicted and troubled and miserable? Compare righteous Lot in 2 Peter 2:7-8. The indwelling Holy Spirit makes His grieved presence felt.

The person who is living sinfully who knows he is living sinfully, who enjoys living in such a manner, who intends to continue that sinful way of living—that person does not have the Holy Spirit living within Him. The very fact that he is comfortable about his sin is proof of the Spirit's absence!  [R. Gene Reynolds, Assurance of Salvation, page 73.]

6. What is the gift of tongues: real languages or unintelligible utterances?

Let us first consider the speaking in tongues that is taking place today. What actually is being spoken? Is it a real language or is it nonsense gibberish?

Charismatics see their tongues as God-given prayer language, perhaps angelic. But to those who would only ever address God intelligibly, and who know from professional linguistic scholars (who are unanimous on this) that glossolalia has no language-character at all.  ["Charismatic Renewal" by J. I. Packer in Christianity Today, March 7, 1980, pages 16-17.]

William Samarin, professor of linguistics at the University of Toronto wrote: "Over a period of five years I have taken part in meetings in Italy, Holland, Jamaica, Canada and the United States. I have observed old-fashioned Pentecostals and neo-Pentecostals. I have been in small meetings in private homes as well as in mammoth public meetings. I have seen such different cultural settings as are found among Puerto Ricans of the Bronx, the snake handlers of the Appalachians and the Russian Molakans of Los Angeles...I have interviewed tongue speakers, and tape recorded and analyzed countless samples of Tongues. In every case, glossolalia turns out to be linguistic nonsense. In spite of superficial similarities, glossolalia is fundamentally not language." [Cited by John MacArthur, Jr. in The Charismatics, page 162.]

Linguistic scholars work with precise definitions of what constitutes a natural human language. Glossolalia (speaking in tongues) fails to meet the criteria of these definitions. Specifically, the work by Charles F. Hockett (in Joseph H. Greenberg, ed., Universals of Language, 1963) details sixteen criteria for language. The research of linguists clearly reveals that the spoken utterances of glossolalists do not meet these criteria.  For a careful account of why glossic utterances cannot be human languages, see Dr. Eugene A. Nida's Glossolalia: A Case of Pseudo-Linguistic Structure. The works by Dr. William J. Samarin, especially "The Linguisticality of Glossolalia," are helpful in explaining the differences between glossolalia and natural human languages.  [This quotation taken from The Psychology of Speaking in Tongues by John P. Kildahl (Harper & Row, 1972), p. 47.]

In other words, go to a Charismatic gathering where people speak in tongues, record the tongues speaking on a tape recorder, bring the tape recorder to the best linguistic scholars you can find, let them study the tongues utterances, and what will their conclusion be? They will conclude that the utterances are linguistic nonsense and not any language at all.

How different the modern tongues movement is from the tongues speaking that we read about on the pages of the Bible. The key passage on this is Acts chapter 2 where we have the Bible's first occurrence of the gift of tongues. What was spoken on the day of Pentecost? There is no question but that these were real languages: "Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own L___________________....And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? (Acts 2:6,8)

From this passage we can formulate a definition of the Biblical gifts of tongues: The gift of tongues was the miraculous ability to speak a language which the speaker had never learned. It was miraculous because "the Spirit gave them utterance" (verse 4) and apart from Him it could never happen. It was a real language "because every man heard them speak in his own language" (verse 6). The speakers had never learned the languages which they were speaking: "And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans?" (verse 7)

Another key chapter is 1 Corinthians 14. From this chapter we find two strong arguments to support the fact that tongues consisted of real languages:

1) Argument #1--The fact that tongues could be interpreted (translated)

See 1 Corinthians 14:5,13,27,28. The way to interpret a foreign language is to translate it. Thus the interpreters at the United Nations are expert translators. In Matthew 1:23 we see that the word "interpreted" means "translated" (the Hebrew "Immanuel" translated into English is "God with us").

Our argument is simply this: You can only interpret or translate a real language. Ecstatic utterances or nonsense syllables or meaningless gibberish cannot be translated. Let us illustrate this by two songs that are sung at the Christmas season. "Gloria in excelsis Deo" can be translated because it is a real language (Latin). It means "Glory to God in the Highest." On the other hand, "FA LA LA LA LA, LA LA, LA LA" (from "Deck the Halls") cannot be translated. These are meaningless syllables, perhaps the emotional expression of a person who is jolly.

Conclusion: Only a real language can be interpreted or translated. Tongues in 1 Corinthians 14 could be interpreted. Thus tongues in 1 Corinthians 14 were real languages.

2) Argument #2--The fact that tongues consisted of words

See 1 Corinthians 14:19--"Yet in the church I had rather speak ___________     ____________ with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue." This verse makes it very clear that the gift of tongues consisted of "words." What are words? Words are sounds which symbolize and communicate meaning. Tongues in the Bible were not ecstatic utterances; they were words. They were not nonsense syllables; they were WORDS. They were not meaningless gibberish; they were words. They were not ecstatic utterances, but rather they were rational utterances.

For further argumentation that the gift of tongues consisted of real languages that were spoken on earth, see God's Gift of Tongues, by George Zeller, pages 107-110, "Twelve Reasons Why Biblical Tongues Were Real Languages."

7. In New Testament times was every believer expected to speak in tongues?

Was the gift of tongues something that every believer was given? Was tongues speaking something that every believer was expected to do?

In 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 we learn that every believer has a spiritual gift (or perhaps more than one) but not every believer has the same gift. Some believers had the gift of tongues (verse 10) but not all. In 1 Corinthians 12:30 the question is asked, "Do all speak with tongues?" It is a rhetorical question that requires a negative answer: NO! All do not speak with tongues. It was a gift that some had but not all. Thus in New Testament times was the gift of tongues given to every believer? ______

Why is it then that in Charismatic circles everyone is encouraged and persuaded to speak with tongues? Why is it recommended to all if it was only given to some?

8. Where in the Bible does God tell the believer to speak in tongues?

Is there any such command? There is a command to "be ____________ with the Spirit" (Eph. 5:18). There is a command to "W________ in the Spirit" (Gal. 5:16). But nowhere is there a command to speak in tongues. We would not expect to find such a command. How can God command all believers to do something that He has only gifted some believers to do?

A challenge to our Charismatic friends: "I will gladly try to speak in tongues if you can show me one command from the Word of God which tells me to do so."

What instruction is given by Charismatic leaders to try to help people learn to speak in tongues? Here is one example:

Determine not to speak a word of English at this time (for you cannot speak two languages at once). Lift up the sound of your voice and the Holy Spirit will give you utterance in a new language supernaturally. Do not be concerned about `what to say,' as the language is spoken supernaturally and does not come through the mind or intellect but through your spirit quickened by the Holy Spirit. In faith, put your speech faculties into operation (vocal chords, tongue, lips) as in speaking any language, and the Holy Spirit, now indwelling you, will give the utterance.  [From a tract published by Dr. Hobart Freeman, Faith Ministries and Publications, (Warsaw, Indiana).]

Here is another example from the pages of early Church history:

Marcus: "Open thy mouth, speak whatsoever occurs to thee." She then, vainly puffed up and elated by these words, and greatly excited in soul by the expectation that it is herself who is to prophesy, her heart beating violently (from emotion), reaches the requisite pitch of audacity, and idly as well as impudently utters some nonsense as it happens to occur to her, such as might be expected from one healed by an empty spirit." [Irenaeus Against Heresies]

Don't think about what you are saying and don't use your mind! Does that seem like sound advice? ____

9. In New Testament times, how important was the gift of tongues?

"I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all: Yet in the church I had rather speak _________ words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ______   ___________________ words in an unknown tongue" (1 Corinthians 14:18-19).

What a comparison! Five words that can be understood are better than ten thousand words in a tongue! Imagine telling a preacher to limit his Sunday morning sermon to five words! (1) Very (2) little (3) can (4) be (5) said! But those five words are better and more edifying than ten thousand words in a tongue.  This same principle can be applied to Bible study. It is better to read two or three verses that you understand and can apply to your life than to quickly read through 10 chapters and get nothing out of them.

It takes about one and a half hours to speak ten thousand words.  [Perhaps some women are even more verbose. Astronaut Michael Collins, speaking at a banquet, quoted the estimate that the average man speaks 25,000 words in a day and the average woman 30,000. Then he added: "Unfortunately, when I come home each day, I've spoken my 25,000--and my wife hasn't started hers."] It takes only two seconds to speak five words. Paul would rather take two seconds to say "Christ died for our sins" (1 Cor. 15:3), than to speak two hours in words not understood. Tongues speaking is of no value at all if it cannot be understood. This is why the interpretation of tongues was essential.

In 1 Corinthians 14 Paul put more value on the gift of prophecy than he did on the gift of tongues (see verses 1-5). In 1 Corinthians 12:28 Paul lists certain gifts, apparently in order of importance: "And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues."  Which gift is last on this list? __________________

10. When did the gift of tongues cease?

The Charismatic Answers:

1) Tongues have not ceased. God is still giving the gift of tongues today just as He did in New Testament times.


2) The gift of tongues ceased early in the history of the church, perhaps at the end of the first century. However, in these last days the gift of tongues has reappeared and God is once again giving this gift.

The Biblical Answer:

"Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall ______________; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away" (1 Cor. 13:8).

Paul predicted that the gift of tongues would cease (stop). God would stop giving this gift. The only problem is that Paul, in this verse, did not tell us when tongues would cease. He did not say, "Tongues will cease in 70 AD" or "Tongues will cease in 1000 years" or "Tongues will cease at the Lord's second coming."

There are three approaches that can be followed to determine when tongues did in fact cease. We shall now consider each of these approaches.


There is overwhelming historical evidence that the gift of tongues ceased early in the history of the church. Richard Quebedeaux, a friend of the Charismatic movement, admits this very fact:

Evidence for the appearance of glossolalia, at least from the late second century to the eighteenth or nineteenth century, is scarce and frequently obscure....Origen, in the third century, and Chrysostom, in the fourth, both disparaged the accounts of speaking in tongues, and rejected its continued validity. Augustine, early in the fifth century, asserted that glossolalia was a sign adapted only to biblical times. [Richard Quebedeaux, The New Charismatics, pp. 20-21.]

The comment by the great preacher Chrysostom is worthy of note: "This whole place is very obscure [commenting on the references to tongues in 1 Corinthians] but the obscurity is produced by our ignorance of the facts referred to and by their cessation, being such as then used to occur, but now no longer takes place." [Homilies, XXIX, 1.]  In other words, Chrysostom writing in the 4th century recognized that the gift of tongues described by Paul was something that used to occur in Paul's day but which no longer took place in Chrysostom's day. He refers to the "cessation" of this gift.

Cleon Rogers wrote the following: "It is significant that the gift of tongues is nowhere alluded to, hinted at or even found in any writings of the Post Apostolic Fathers."   [John MacArthur, Jr., The Charismatics, p. 169.]  It is important to note that the gift of tongues is mentioned in 1 Corinthians, one of Paul's earliest epistles, but it is not mentioned in any of Paul's later epistles. This suggests that the gift of tongues may have ceased even before the canon of Scripture was closed.


This approach seeks to determine when tongues ceased by examining the context of 1 Corinthians 13:8 ("tongues...shall cease"). The main message of this chapter can be summarized as follows:

1) There are three things that will fail (verse 8).
2) There are three things that will remain (verse 13).
3) There is one thing that will never fail (verse 8); it will remain forever (verse 13).

This indicates three time periods:

  1. The time when the gifts of prophecy, tongues and knowledge were in force. These were special revelatory gifts given by God in the days of the early church.

  2. The time when the gifts of prophecy, tongues and knowledge failed, ceased and vanished away (verse 8) and the virtues of faith, hope and love remain (verse 13). This is the present age.

  3. The time when only love remains but faith and hope will not remain. Faith will be replaced by sight (2 Cor. 5:7; Heb. 11:1) and hope will be replaced by realization (Rom. 8:24-25). This is the eternal state.

Thus the passage clearly teaches that there must be a period of time prior to the eternal state when the gifts of tongues and prophecy are no longer in effect and when the virtues of faith and hope are still in effect. This contradicts the teaching of those who insist that the gift of tongues has been given by God throughout this present age.

For a more detailed study of 1 Corinthians chapter 13, see our paper entitled First Corinthians 13 and Temporary Gifts.


What was the purpose of the gift of tongues? If the purpose for tongues is known, then it is possible to determine when tongues ceased. The purposive argument may be thus stated: Tongues ceased when they no longer served the purpose for which they were given.   [Just like the purpose of a comb ceases for an individual man when the man becomes bald. The comb is no longer needed.]

There is only one place in the New Testament where Paul tells us the purpose of the gift of tongues: "Wherefore, tongues are FOR a sign..." (1 Corinthians 14:22). The preposition translated "for" (eis) denotes purpose. Paul's explanation in verse 22 concerning the purpose of tongues is actually an inference based upon his words in verse 21. Verse 21 begins with these important words, "In the law it is written..."

In verse 21 Paul cited an Old Testament passage, Isaiah 28:11-12. Paul knew that the key to understanding the Biblical purpose of tongues is found "in the law," that is, in the Old Testament Scriptures. What does the Old Testament teach concerning tongues? What was the significance and purpose of tongues in Old Testament times? When foreign tongues were spoken, what did this mean?

Isaiah 28 is not the only passage in the Old Testament which deals with the significance of foreign tongues. Several such passages together set forth a very sobering Biblical principle—a principle which has been demonstrated repeatedly in history. As we consider foreign tongues in the Old Testament, a very sobering and sad pattern becomes evident:






The context is the millennium. God causes tongues not to be heard, indicating that Israel would enjoy the blessing of God (verse 19). There would be no more dispersion!


* * * * * * *

The gift of tongues served as a sign of judgment for unbelieving Israel. The sign of judgment is no longer needed after the judgment has come. In 70 A.D. the Romans under General Titus brought the Christ-rejecting nation Israel to its final ruin. Ever since A.D. 70 there has been no question that Israel as a nation is under the judgment of God. Therefore it must be concluded that tongues as a sign gift were no longer needed after 70 A.D. The last historical mention of the gift of tongues is found in 1 Corinthians which was written about 55 A.D. There is no evidence historically that the genuine gift of tongues ever occurred after 70 A.D. Tongues served their purpose, and tongues ceased, even as God predicted through the Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 13:8).

Space does not allow for a more detailed development of the above points in this paper, but for a more lengthy discussion see the book God's Gift of Tongues by George Zeller.

11. Can unsaved people speak in tongues?

The Biblical gift of tongues was the supernatural ability to speak in a foreign language which the speaker had never learned. An unsaved person would not have the God-given ability to do this. Spiritual gifts are given to believers at the point of salvation, not to unbelievers.

The modern day phenomena of speaking ecstatic utterances (glossolalia) is something quite different. There are countless examples of unsaved people speaking in tongues. Here are but a few:

1) In the second century the Montanists spoke in tongues. This was a heretical group especially noted for their heresies concerning the Holy Spirit. The following account is a description of Montanus and his followers by Eusebius in his History of the Church:

Montanus, in his unbridled ambition to reach the top, laid himself open to the adversary, was filled with spiritual excitement and suddenly fell into a kind of trance and unnatural ecstasy. He raved, and began to chatter and talk nonsense, prophesying in a way that conflicted with the practice of the Church handed down generation by generation from the beginning. Of those who listened at that time to his sham utterances some were annoyed, regarding him as possessed, a demoniac in the grip of a spirit of error, a disturber of the masses. They rebuked him and tried to stop his chatter, remembering the distinction drawn by the Lord, and His warning to guard vigilantly against the coming of false prophets....Then he secretly stirred up and inflamed minds closed to the true Faith, raising up in this way two others—women whom he filled with the sham spirit, so that they chattered crazily, inopportunely, and wildly, like Montanus himself.

According to Eusebius, this practice of tongues speaking was totally contrary to the practice of the church. Indeed, Montanus and his followers were excommunicated from the church.

2) Irenaeus wrote the following concerning the second century heretic Marcus:

Marcus to a woman, "Receive first from me and by me the gift of Charis..." Woman: "I have never at any time prophesied, nor do I know how to prophesy." Marcus: "Open thy mouth, speak whatsoever occurs to thee, and thou shalt prophesy." She then, vainly puffed up and elated by these words, and greatly excited in soul by the expectation that it is herself who is to prophesy, her heart beating violently (from emotion), reaches the requisite pitch of audacity, and idly as well as impudently utters some nonsense as it happens to occur to her, such as might be expected from one healed by an empty spirit" [Irenaeus Against Heresies].

The orthodox leaders of the early church recognized that such emotional outbursts of tongues speaking were not of God. It was a phenomena encouraged by the heretics.

3) The Cevenol priests who lived in France in the late 17th century also spoke in tongues. They were branded heretics because their prophecies went unfulfilled.  [John MacArthur Jr., The Charismatics, p. 169.]

4) The Shakers originated in 1747 by a woman. Doctrinally she was all mixed up and held heretical views especially concerning the Person of Christ. "It is said that in order to mortify the flesh she instituted the practice of men and women dancing together naked while they spoke in tongues." [Charles Smith, Tongues in Biblical Perspective, pages 17-18.]

5) Examples of speaking in tongues are found within the Mormon church (a cult): "Right from the beginning with Joseph Smith, Mormons have accepted tongues as a valid gift for modern times. When their temple was dedicated in Salt Lake City, hundreds of elders spoke in tongues." [Charles Smith, Tongues in Biblical Perspective, page 18.]

6) The followers of Edward Irving (19th century) spoke in tongues. These people had revelations that contradicted Scripture, prophecies that went unfulfilled and they promoted various erroneous teachings. [See John MacArthur Jr., The Charismatics, p. 170 and see also Arnold Dallimore's excellent biography, Forerunner of the Charismatic Movement--The Life of Edward Irving (Moody Press, 1983).]

7) Today it is a known fact that people who do not even profess to be Christians speak in tongues:

Today shamans (witch doctors, priests, or medicine men) in Haiti, Greenland, Micronesia, and countries of Africa, Australia, Asia, and North and South America speak in tongues. Several groups use drugs to aid in inducing the ecstatic state and utterances. Voodoo practitioners speak in tongues. Buddhist and Shinto priests have been heard speaking in tongues. Moslems have spoken in tongues, and an ancient tradition even reports that Mohammed himself spoke in tongues. [Charles Smith, Tongues in Biblical Perspective, pages 20-21. For further documentation of unsaved people speaking in tongues, look up the article on "glossolalia" in The Encyclopedia Britannica.]

8) Sadly, there are many people today involved in the modern Charismatic movement who have spoken in tongues and yet they do not have any clear understanding of salvation or the gospel of grace or what it means to be born again. They have had an experience but they do not have eternal life (1 John 5:11-12). [We also recognize that there are people involved in the Charismatic movement who may truly know Christ as Saviour, having trusted Him and Him alone for their salvation. It is possible to be truly saved and yet to be doctrinally confused.]

12. What is wrong with modern day tongues speaking? (A Summary)

1) In Charismatic circles, speaking in tongues is set forth as something that everyone should seek, but in the New Testament, tongues was a spiritual gift that was not given to every believer (1 Cor. 12:8-11,30). Tongues was a relatively unimportant gift (listed last in 1 Cor. 12:28), though it did have edificational value if it were used rightly and interpreted properly.

2) The Biblical gift of tongues was the supernatural and God-given ability to speak in a language which the person had never learned. The modern so-called gift of tongues is an ecstatic, emotional experience of uttering nonsense gibberish which cannot be translated and which does not have any real language content.

3) There is not one command in the entire Bible which tells a believer to speak in tongues and 24 out of 27 books in the New Testament say absolutely nothing about the gift of tongues.

4) The facts of history indicate that the true gift of tongues ceased very early in the history of the church and there is no verse in the Bible indicating that this gift will reappear in the last days.

5) The gift of tongues was a temporary sign gift which served its purpose and then was no longer needed, and thus no longer given. It served as a sign of judgment to unbelieving Israel and an indication that God was putting the nation Israel aside and beginning a new program, even His Church. There is no mention of the genuine gift of tongues in the Bible or in secular history after 70 A.D. (the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans).

6) As previously discussed, the kind of speaking in tongues that takes place today is a known psychological phenomenon which has been practiced by heretical groups, pagans, cultists and non-Christian people throughout the centuries.  "Glossolalia or speaking in tongues is not restricted to Christian experience.  Ecstatic utterances of a divinely inspired nature are mentioned in early Egyptian writings.  The oracles of Delphi, Dodona, and Epirus among many others, which laid claim to prophecy, sometimes through the spirits of the dead, appear to be related to glossolalia.  Plato extolled 'four kinds of irrational experience, the divine madness of love, prophecy, Dionysian ecstasy, and poetic intuition,' and both Plutarch and Virgil recorded phenomena similar to glossolalia" [The Psychology of Speaking in Tongues by John P. Kildahl (Harper & Row, 1972), p. 11].

7)  One expert on the psychological phenomenon of speaking in tongues has come to this conclusion:

I am skeptical of the sociological and psychological aspects of tongue-speech as exhibited in public.  Too much of it has been harmful rather than helpful when measured by the criterion of edifying the whole group....Tongues-speaking does not look very uniquely spiritual to me after many experiences of watching people teach other people how to speak in tongues.  I have observed the same routine everywhere I have been: (1) a meeting devoted to intense concentration on tongue-speaking, followed by (2) an atmosphere of heightened suggestibility to the words of the tongue-speaking leaders, after which (3) the initiate is able to make the sounds he is instructed to make.  It is the same procedure that a competent hypnotist employs.  Like the hypnotist, the tongue-speaking leader succeeds with some subjects and with others does not.  I have reached the conclusion that tongue-speaking is a learned phenomenon. [The Psychology of Speaking in Tongues by John P. Kildahl (Harper & Row, 1972), p. 74]

It is our thesis that hypnotizability constitutes the sine qua non of the glossolalia experience. If one can be hypnotized, then one is able under proper conditions to learn to speak in tongues. While glossolalia is not the same as hypnosis, it is similar to it and has the same roots in the relationship of the subject to the authority figure. [The Psychology of Speaking in Tongues by John P. Kildahl (Harper & Row, 1972), pages 54-55].

8) Much of the speaking in tongues that takes place today is found to be contrary to the rules set forth in 1 Corinthians chapter 14 which is another indication that it cannot be of God. Here are some of the regulations set forth by the Apostle Paul:

No more than three people could speak in tongues on any one occasion (1 Cor. 14:27).

The tongues speakers must speak one after another in succession, not all at once (1 Cor. 14:27).

Whenever tongues speaking occurs, there must also be the interpretation of the tongues (1 Cor. 14:28).

The women were not to speak in tongues in the assembly (1 Cor. 14:34-35).

Go to almost any Charismatic assembly and you will find these rules being violated.  God wants everything to be done "d__________________________ and in O_________________" (1 Cor. 14:40).


For more information about the gift of tongues, see the book God's Gift of Tongues by George Zeller.

Go to the Next Lesson

Back to Studies on the Holy Spirit

Home Page - Sunday School & Bible Studies - Help for the Seeking Heart
Salvation - Missions & Evangelism - Bible Study - Christian Life - Prophecy - Doctrinal Studies
Christian Home & Family - Dispensationalism - Problems with Reformed Theology
The Local Church
- Studies on Biblical Separation - Order Literature
Spanish Studies