I have found no reason in scriptures to believe that the gift of tongues is not real, or that it is not for the church today. I believe the true gift of tongues has been shunned because of the abundance of counterfeits. Tongues and counterfeit tongues are often misused in the church today. Some teach that today’s tongues are satanic or hysteria. Many may be. Just as counterfeits will decrease the value of money, counterfeits have caused this gift to be not valued by much of the church.
Tongues (1 Corinthians 14) are for three purposes — personal edification (v. 4); and when accompanied by the gift of interpretation, for edification of the church (v. 5); and thirdly as a sign to those who do not believe (v. 22). Tongues are not to be used audibly in the assembly except when an interpreter is present; otherwise, because of lack of understanding, confusion may be caused (v. 23). God is not the author of confusion (v. 33). The misuse of tongues and counterfeit tongues in the church today, causes the unlearned and unbelievers to think wrong things (v. 23). Tongues used properly are a sign to the unbelievers (v. 22). The church needs to be careful to use the gift properly.
Some teach there is one type of gift of tongues; others, two types; and still others, three types. But what do the scriptures say? He that speaks in a tongue which is unknown is speaking not unto men but unto God (v.2). And he should pray that he may interpret the tongue which is unknown (v. 13). This unknown tongue is used in an assembly only if there is an interpreter (v. 23) or else silence is required on the part of the individual as he speaks to himself and to God (v. 28). We see only one type of tongue here. When it is unknown it is used in private worship, but when an interpreter is present it is used to edify the church. The tongues used in private worship and the tongues used in conjunction with the gift of interpretation are not different. These verses clearly show that what makes the private worship tongue unknown is the lack of an interpreter(v.13, v. 27).
Some teach that the tongues the apostles spoke with on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:4) were different than the gift of tongues (1 Cor. 12:10) which we have been studying. We have seen that the gift of tongues is tongues unknown (for edification of self) or interpreted (for edification of the Church) and is a sign to unbelievers (v. 22). The other tongues – other than their normal tongues – on the day of Pentecost came following the apostles being filled with the Spirit (Acts 2:4). Many unbelievers from foreign countries who were there for the celebration of Pentecost, heard them and were confounded. Everyone heard the apostles speak in his own language (v. 6). These tongues were a “sign” for those unbelievers. They were amazed and marveled (v. 7, v. 12) and then listened to Peter preach (v. 14) concerning Jesus. We see one gift of tongues (1 Cor. 12:10), but it has different operations or activities (1 Cor. 12:6) (unknown, interpreted, or as a sign to unbelievers).
The Word has shown us that tongues in their various operations are for edification to the individual (1 Cor. 14:4), and for edification to the church (v. 5), and for a sign to the unbelievers (v. 22). Some attribute still another operation to tongues. That being, evidence the believer had been filled with the Holy Spirit. There are two reasons for this teaching. The first is believers being filled with the Spirit and then immediately speaking with tongues in certain instances in the Bible (Acts 2:4; 10:46; 19:6). In Acts 2:4, as we have already mentioned, the other tongues were a sign to the foreign multitudes there for Pentecost- unbelievers. In Acts 10:46, because Jewish Christians didn’t believe that Gentiles were accepted by God, the gift of tongues was a sign to dispel their unbelief. Once again, unbelievers – although they were Christians they needed to see that the full scope of God’s grace included the Gentiles. In Acts 19:1-6, we see John’s disciples being instructed more fully and receiving Jesus. Tongues were for their edification. The second reason for this teaching is Jesus saying, “These signs shall follow them that believe; in my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;…” (Mark 16:16). Notice that the words “them” and “they” are plural. These signs follow the church, not necessarily each individual. Some believers will speak in tongues, some will heal the sick, some will cast out devils. Tongues did not evidence the believer as having been filled with the Spirit.
There are many signs given to evidence the Spirit-filled life (Galatians 5:22,23; 5:16; Acts 4:31; John 14:26; Romans 14:17), none of which mention tongues. If tongues were God’s sign to us of the Spirit-filled life, would He not have told us? He did tell us to examine the fruit in a man’s life and thereby know what spirit he has (Matthew 7:16; 1 John 4:1-3).
“Study to show thyself approved unto God, a
workman that needeth not to be ashamed,
rightly dividing the word of truth.” (II Timothy 2:15)