Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Truth About Tongues: Known Human Languages

How do we know that tongues are known human languages and not “mystical” or “heavenly” languages? Let us shed our ignorance and allow God to open the eyes of our understanding while we examine the facts as revealed in His Word—the Bible. There are three occurrences of “tongues” (glossa, γλωσσα—literally languages) in the book of Acts. The first occurrence was when the Apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost (2:4). In this first occurrence, we are given three (3) evidences that tongues were not “strange” or “heavenly” languages, but known, human languages. Let us examine these evidences:
  1. …Began to speak in other tongues (languages) as the Spirit gave them utterance (2:4).
  2. …Because each one was hearing them speak in his own language (2:6). “And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language (2:8)?”
  3. Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues (languages) the mighty works of God (2:9-11).
Evidence #3 is a compiled list of the people languages that were present. Thrice (twice in evidence #2 and once in evidence #3) it is stated that these people heard the Apostles speak in their native languages. Evidence #1 says the Apostles spoke in other languages as the Spirit gave them utterance. If these men heard in their native language what was being said, and the Spirit gave the Apostles the ability to speak these other languages, then the simple logical reasoning is that they were known, human languages. Nothing else. End of point.

The second occurrence was when the Gentiles were filled with the Holy Spirit, to show that they were equal through salvation with the Jews (10:46). Their speaking in tongues affirmed this. The third occurrence was when the ill-taught followers of John the Baptist were filled with the Holy Spirit after coming into the truth (19:6). Their speaking in tongues affirmed that they, too, were equal through salvation. “Tongues” does not appear again in the rest of the book of Acts.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul condemns the church at Corinth for coveting the showy gifts, such as speaking in tongues. Most of the believers at Corinth had been converted from a pagan background and were having trouble leaving their past behind and following Christian standards. Paul then corrects them on how the true gift should actually be used. In 13:8, Paul states matter-of-factly that “tongues” shall cease. Both history and the Bible bear this out. “Tongues” was no longer on the scene until the 1800’s, other than existing within the cults (Mormonism, Buddhism, Satanism, etc). Paul also states that “knowledge” given by God—not human knowledge—shall vanish as well.
Note: 1 Corinthians 13:10 does not refer to the completion of Scripture, as some men teach, for we have the completion of Scripture, and yet we see through a glass darkly, knowing only in part. We do not see face to face, nor do we know even as we are known (13:12). I would have to agree with Matthew Henry and Matthew Poole in that 1 Corinthians 13:10 is referring to when we receive our heavenly bodies.
In 14:2, Paul states that speaking in an unknown language is not speaking to man, but to God. If I speak in Russian and you only understand English, I am speaking to God. Paul states that no man will understand him. In verse 4, Paul states that those who speak in an unknown language edify only themselves because, as stated in verse 2, no man understands them. In verse 5, Paul states that he who prophesies (by forth-telling, not fore-telling as it has been done away with; see 13:8) is greater than he who speaks in a different language. He lists speaking in tongues as the least of the spiritual gifts. In other words, if coins represented the gifts, a penny would represent tongues. In verse 6, Paul makes a point that if he came to them speaking in another language, it would not profit them because they would not understand him. If they speak English, why should he come speaking Chinese?

The Apostles speaking in different languages in Acts 2 signified new revelation being revealed by God. “Long ago, at many times and in may ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world” (Heb. 1:1-2). Although God could if He wanted to, He no longer uses dreams, prophets, angels, visions, signs and wonders, or tongues. These were all used to give new revelation to God’s people. There is no new revelation to be revealed. “In these last days [God] has spoken to us by [Jesus].” We now have God’s Word—the Bible—as our revelation. God is finished speaking. “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book” (Rev. 22:18-19).

In verse 16, Paul says that if you pray in a different language, it will not edify the church because they will not understand. If I pray in German, and you only understand Spanish, how can you say “Amen” to what I have just prayed? You do not know what I have said. With verse 18, Paul makes mention of his bi-lingual traits (the fact he spoke four languages). This verse is not an indication of Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus. Those who state such a thing are applying poor hermeneutics upon the Scriptures and poor assumptions upon the text. It is called eisegesis—a reading into the text something that is not there. In verse 19, Paul states he would rather say a few words in the people's native language, so the congregation understands, than ten thousand in another language that the congregation does not understand.

In verse 22, he expressed how the act of tongues was a sign for the unbelieving Jews, because Jews require a sign (Acts 1:22). Verse 23, he makes note that if a church spoke in Japanese in an English community and someone off the street came in, he would think the entire church had gone mad. Verse 27 says that if a man is to speak in another language in the church, he must have an interpreter or else remain silent. Verse 33 states that God is not the author of confusion, which is what is going on today in these so-called “tongue-speaking” churches.

Verse 34 states that women should be silent in the churches. The majority of those who “speak in tongues” are women. The fact of the matter is that if every woman who apparently “speaks in tongues” were shut up, this confusion would cease to exist. That is why in verses 36 and 37 Paul asks women, “Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached? If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord.” Verse 35 says that “if there is anything [women] desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home.” This is not a negative connotation toward women, but reflects how it was in the Garden of Eden. When God spoke the words of Genesis 2:16-17, he only spoke it to Adam. Yet it was Eve who quoted it to the serpent (and incorrectly, I might add). How did she quote it when she was not there when it was spoken? Because Adam, the spiritual leader of his household, taught it to her. A man is supposed to know more about the Bible than his family—wife and children—so that he can teach them the Word of God. That is what Paul is trying to say here.

With the end of this chapter, excluding the book of Acts, which was written after 1 Corinthians, “tongues” is never mentioned ever again in the entire Bible—by any author. The first time “tongues” appears in the Bible is at the tower of Babel (Gen. 9:7). If “tongues” were an actual doctrine, it would be spoken of more often. It also would not be condemned, as it was in chapter 14 of 1 Corinthians, by the greatest theologian to have ever lived. Our experiences must never be elevated above God’s Word. Otherwise, we become the authority over God’s Word and we claim ourselves to be greater and wiser than God.

Scripture must always interpret scripture!
Scripture must always interpret our experiences!
Our experiences must never interpret scripture!

We must always seek God’s full truth above all else, no matter what the results may be. Just because we have been raised with a certain belief or have experienced a certain thing does not make that belief or that experience true. If our beliefs conflict with God’s Word, the way the Charismatic belief of tongues does, we need to be willing to change our beliefs so that we are in line with Christ. Otherwise, we are in direct defiance and disobedience to God and His Word.

What passes today in some churches for “tongues,” is not. No matter how adamantly one proclaims that they have spoken in “tongues,” they have not (other than their every day chit-chat). And what they do is not from God. H. A. Ironside recorded people speaking in tongues and analyzed it. He found that the majority took syllables from their mother language and jumbled them around. These people are confused and mistaken. This psycho-babble they call “tongues” is not from God, nor does it edify the church. If they could really speak in tongues, when going on mission trips they would have no need to go to language school in order to learn the native language of that region. They would be able to fly right there and start speaking the language right away. However, this has yet to occur by these so-called “tongues-speakers.” Also, if their speaking in tongues were truly from God, why is it that they have to be taught how to do it? Why is it that there is always immense emotionalism attached to this event? The Apostles, the Gentiles, and the ill-taught followers of John the Baptist did not have to be taught this—it was the work of the Holy Spirit for one purpose . . . their unity in Christ through salvation, demonstrating that their message was authentic.