Is it unintelligible babbling no one can understand or talking in known languages for the purpose of edifying and educating?
[Darris] Do you have to speak in tongues to prove you have the Holy Spirit of God?
For many who follow a Pentecostal form of religion this action is evidence that God is with them and they are ok with God. As they worship with others in an emotional display of movement and sound they begin to speak in ways and language that’s known as “speaking in tongues.”
But what about someone who doesn’t experience this emotion or sign of God’s power?
What if they can’t “pray down the spirit”?
What if they can’t make utterances to prove their connection with God?
And is this really what God means when in the Bible we see references to those who speak with the gift of tongues?
We are going to look at this topic and see how these questions affected one of our viewers as she struggled and questioned the strength of her relationship with God.
Join us on Beyond Today as we look at “Speaking in Tongues.”
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[Darris] Many sincere people practice speaking in tongues. This is common among many Pentecostal churches where the form of worship involves emotional preaching, and music, and the active movement and praying of members with arms raised and seeking to pray down the spirit and experience the baptism of the Holy Ghost. Such charismatic or Pentecostal practices, where people feel they are speaking in spiritual languages are found around the world.
The question is, is this practice scriptural? Is this practice a proof of God’s acceptance and the possession of His Holy Spirit? Note that the New Testament does tell of examples of Christians speaking in tongues or languages as part of the works of God. But what do the Scriptures really tell us?
If you have battled in trying to understand, well you’re not alone. One of our Beyond Today viewers left a very personal comment on our website.
We will call her Lisa. Lisa was attending a charismatic Pentecostal church for some time. Each week members began speaking in tongues. However, Lisa was unable to speak in tongues like the rest of the congregation. She felt uneasy. She felt out of place. When she took her concerns to her pastor, she didn’t get a sympathetic ear. Instead of encouraging her, he told her she did not have the Spirit in her.
Frustrated, Lisa read and reread her Bible for answers, but she could not find them.
Seeking to find a useful role, she began volunteering in her community and in her church, but it didn’t help. Because she could not speak in tongues she felt she was not a real Christian. She was consumed by guilt.
Seeking an answer, she began searching the Internet. Her search led her to our website. It was there that she found the answer that satisfied this spiritual hole in her life. She learned the truth about this subject by reading articles and listening to presentations like the one I am giving you here today. As a result, Lisa could move on with a contentment and a joy in her life.
Now through this story, we see the problem of guilt and uncertainty that’s created when one does not speak in tongues. They ask, “Am I not acceptable to God?” or “Does God not hear my prayer?” We also see something like this, a resolution of the conflict by understanding what Scripture says.
What did Lisa learn in her search for truth? I’d like to share that with you today.
The New Testament shows the practice of Christians in the first century speaking in languages other than their own—what we call today speaking in tongues. The most dramatic episode is found in the book of Acts 2. Let’s read it.
It says in verse 1, that “On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place” (Acts 2:1 Acts 2:1And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
American King James Version×).
Now the setting here is Jerusalem, a little more than 50 days from the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Earlier, Christ had ascended to heaven and He no longer visibly walked with the disciples. He had told them to wait in Jerusalem until they would receive power from heaven.
And so, on this Holy Day—this Festival of Pentecost—they were gathered in worship when something totally unexpected happened.
Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting.
120 disciples were in this room. The windows were open to the mild spring air in Jerusalem. But suddenly, hair, clothing and objects on tables began flying, and interrupted the gathering. All attention was on the moment before them. Now Luke’s story goes on.
“Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them” (Acts 2:3 Acts 2:3And there appeared to them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat on each of them.
American King James Version×).
Here was a dramatic and likely frightening moment. Nothing like this was known to the men and women. Perhaps they had seen lightning strike an object in a fantastic display of raw natural power. But, no one ever saw such a display in a controlled manner like this, and neither have I.
You know, once I had an experience during a thunderstorm where I was sitting in a meeting in a large room and lightning struck the building and visibly arced across the room. It left everyone surprised and momentarily stunned. Though it was clearly a natural event, it gave me a small awareness of what might have been going through the minds of the disciples that day in Jerusalem. I’m sure you’ve had a similar experience when a crowd’s attention is immediately gathered. Let’s look at what happened next.
“And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability” (Acts 2:4 Acts 2:4And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
American King James Version×).
Here was a direct miracle from God. The disciples, men and women, began to talk to each other in other languages. The account clearly tells us that the ability to do so came from the Holy Spirit, which means that it was from God, it was of God. None of these disciples were educated in world languages enabling them to switch to a language other than their native language. These people were from Galilee—the rural area of Judea that was not known for people of high learning and sophistication. Those who observed in that day plainly said “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans?” (Acts 2:7 Acts 2:7And they were all amazed and marveled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans?
American King James Version×).
“At that time” the account goes on, “there were devout Jews from every nation living in Jerusalem. When they heard the loud noise, everyone came running, and they were bewildered to hear their own languages being spoken by the believers” (Acts 2:5-6 Acts 2:5-6  And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.
 Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.
American King James Version×).
The word for language or tongue here is the word, “glossa.” It’s in Greek and it means a known language. They were speaking in the “known languages” of the day, not mysterious babbling that no one could comprehend.
The disciples had moved from their original location to another public area where they encountered pilgrims who had come from the far reaches of the Roman Empire to be in Jerusalem during this festival season. There, there were Jews and others who were interested in the faith of Abraham. And among those nations that were gathered there, people from Parthia, Media, Mesopotamia, Libya and Rome—there were Jews and others who were called God-fearers—people who would be the seedbed for spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God.
God, in this dramatic moment and this miracle, was showing that the message of salvation was going to go to all nations in the world, not just to Israel—the descendants of Abraham.
Now let’s go back to what was happening.
So again, it was a clearly understood language. There was no “new tongue” or unknown tongue here. They were new to those who spoke them—the disciples—because they had never spoken those languages before.
Their ability to speak the language of another nation had nothing to do with human training or learning—it was a miracle from God. It says, “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability” (Acts 2:4 Acts 2:4And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
American King James Version×, NRSV).
Now as I mentioned earlier, many sincere Christians and followers of other faiths practice speaking in tongues. But is this practice biblical? Is it a proof of God’s acceptance and the possession of His Holy Spirit? I encourage you to examine this extremely important subject by offering you a free copy of our Bible study aid: The Power of the Holy Spirit. You really need this study aid to gain deeper understanding about God’s gift of the Holy Spirit.
We only have a limited number of copies available in print. After that this free study aid, titled: The Power of the Holy Spirit, will only be available online. So if you request it now, you can have a printed copy. Please, call: 1-888-886-8632 or go online to BeyondToday.tv. Or, you can write to the address that is shown on your screen throughout the program [Beyond Today, PO Box 541027, Cincinnati, OH 45254].
So, Acts 2 details the first occurrence of speaking in languages. For three reasons, what we’ve read in Acts 2 is a foundational passage on the Bible on this very subject.
1. First of all, it was on the Feast of Pentecost that this first occurred, this gift.
2. Secondly, the text clearly states the miracle was from God.
3. And third, the text clearly explains that the gift of tongues refers to a supernatural ability to speak in known languages.
But there is one other notable passage where speaking in tongues is mentioned. It’s in 1 Corinthians 14 where the apostle Paul gives teaching on tongues to this Christian church.
What did Paul say and why did he say what he did to the church in Corinth? Let’s understand a few points.
First, Paul was addressing speaking in a language in the context of legitimate gifts of God—speaking in a language is a spiritual gift. But because of the Corinthians’ background in pagan religious cults, they were abusing this gift.
In verse 1, we read where Paul begins the specific topic of spiritual gifts by expressing a desire for the Corinthians to not be “ignorant” or “uninformed” (NRSV) on the subject of spiritual gifts. The implication is that they were uninformed (1 Corinthians 12:1 1 Corinthians 12:1Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I would not have you ignorant.
American King James Version×).
In verse 2, he refers to their pagan background, which involved counterfeits of true spiritual gifts. You see, pagan cults in the ancient world, and in Greece engaged in ecstatic charismatic practices that included speaking in unintelligible language. It came after intense periods of frenzied worship that included shouting and music (1 Corinthians 12:2 1 Corinthians 12:2You know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, even as you were led.
American King James Version×).
Putting these two verses together suggests that the Corinthian congregation’s lack of understanding regarding spiritual gifts combined with the influence of their pagan past resulted in problems that we read about.
What kind of problems? Confusion. The worship services were disorderly. Members speaking with the “gift” spoke above and shouted down others so that they could be heard (1 Corinthians 14:26 1 Corinthians 14:26How is it then, brothers? when you come together, every one of you has a psalm, has a doctrine, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done to edifying.
American King James Version×). This now led to divisions of some who felt spiritually superior to others. They were using a gift for personal vanity rather than the glory of God.
The chaos and the confusion led to unbelievers walking into the service and being turned off to the disorder (1 Corinthians 14:23 1 Corinthians 14:23If therefore the whole church be 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 you are mad?
American King James Version×). And this in turn brought shame upon the church.
Paul shows them the proper use of any spiritual gift serves to build up every member of the church—not just the one who has the gift. The gift is to be helpful and edifying. Knowledge and understanding and love were to be conveyed by using any of the spiritual gifts.
The end result of speaking in tongues was to be furthering the work of God. Just as we saw in Acts, those who spoke in tongues furthered the work of God—not their ego.
Now Paul instructs them how to properly use the gift of tongues. First he says, if anyone speaks in a tongue, there must be someone to interpret, for the sake of being understood by the rest of the congregation (1 Corinthians 14:6-17 1 Corinthians 14:6-17  Now, brothers, if I come to you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine?
 And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped?
 For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?
 So likewise you, except you utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for you shall speak into the air.
 There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification.
 Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be to him that speaks a barbarian, and he that speaks shall be a barbarian to me.
 Even so you, for as much as you are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that you may excel to the edifying of the church.
 Why let him that speaks in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret.
 For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful.
 What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.
 Else when you shall bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupies the room of the unlearned say Amen at your giving of thanks, seeing he understands not what you say?
 For you truly give thanks well, but the other is not edified.
American King James Version×). Next, he says that instead of several people talking at the same time, he instructs them to take turns speaking and enjoins respectful silence upon the rest of the congregation so that they might learn and that they might be edified (1 Corinthians 14:27-31).
Finally Paul writes, “God is not the author of confusion,” (1 Corinthians 14:33). This leads to the obvious conclusion that God is not the source of this chaos.
To sum up, Paul tells the Corinthians they are abusing something God intends to be used to glorify Him and not any worshipper. Modern examples of speaking in tongues focus on the individual, are often uncontrollable and result in the type of scene Paul was addressing in Corinth. They make a travesty of something holy.
Earlier we told the story of Lisa, the woman who wrote us saying that she was not able to pray down the spirit. It leads us back to the question I posed at the beginning of the program. Is speaking in tongues proof one has received the indwelling of the Holy Spirit of God? No.
Speaking in tongues is a gift God gives when He deems appropriate and to communicate a clear message. God gave this gift at key moments in the establishment of his Church. When God gives this gift, it is not a confusing, chaotic, self-serving charismatic religious experience. It is “known languages,” and those who hear it are edified and educated by it.
Lisa found the truth of the Bible comforting. The evidence of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is clear through the fruit of the Spirit that is mentioned in Galatians 5:22 Galatians 5:22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
American King James Version× . Jesus even Himself said that “You will know them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:16 Matthew 7:16You shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
American King James Version×).
Speaking in tongues is a gift from God, not a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23 Galatians 5:22-23  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
American King James Version×).
Understanding this leads us to another question: How then do we receive the Holy Spirit? For the answer we have to go back to Acts 2 where Peter gave that sermon on the Day of Pentecost and see the results and the formula. The people who Peter was preaching to were convicted that they in turn were guilty of the murder and the death of Jesus Christ and they had to do something. They asked, what shall we do? And Peter said to them, repent and be baptized every one of you. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, there in verse 38 (Acts 2:36-38 Acts 2:36-38  Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God has made the same Jesus, whom you have crucified, both Lord and Christ.
 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said to Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brothers, what shall we do?
 Then Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
American King James Version×). They had to repent which means to turn their life around. Can you do that?
Can you submit yourself to God in true biblical repentance? Can you admit there is something missing and the only solution is a relationship with God based on genuine change, repentance and faith, and the baptism and receiving the gift of God’s Holy Spirit? Which leads to a question to ask: What can God’s Spirit do for you?
Let me go back to the story of Lisa. The story I told earlier. Lisa is a sincere God-fearing woman who deeply desires to know the true God and have a relationship with Him. She took a detour into charismatic speaking in tongues but she soon realized that detour was into a dead end street.
You don’t have to continue walking down whatever dead end street you may be on right now. It’s time you turned yourself around. That you got off the frustrating street that you may be on. God can help you do this and the power of His Holy Spirit in you can transform your life for the good.
Again back in Acts 5:32 Acts 5:32And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God has given to them that obey him.
American King James Version×, God shows us that God gives the Holy Spirit to those who obey Him.
Again, repentance and obedience are prerequisites for receiving the gift of God’s Holy Spirit in faith through baptism. It is possible to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit and you then can have that power as part of your life today.
Receiving God’s Spirit will give you the spiritual power needed to live a godly, righteous life. It helps provide the motivation and the strength to obey God's commandments, to make right choices in your life and to cope with the daily challenges and difficulties that we all deal with.
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I’m joined now by fellow Beyond Today hosts, Gary Petty and Steve Myers. Gentlemen, this is a different type program we have done before on speaking in tongues, and yet I think it is going to strike a chord with our audience because a lot of people do this in the form of religion today. And of course, most people know about the charismatic practices that people have. But as we have seen in this brief study of God’s Word, it’s not at all like it is practiced today. We’ve talked about people receiving the Holy Spirit and I think that’s really important. Let’s walk people through that process again.
[Gary] You know when you look here at Acts 2—which you talked about—those people receive God’s Spirit in a very powerful, open way but that was unique. If you go through the book of Acts, what you see is that right away there was a process by which they work through people in order to receive the Spirit. They had to believe in God. They had to have faith in Jesus Christ, and what God is doing through Jesus Christ. They had to, what the Bible calls, repent. And then they had to be baptized and then hands were laid on them by the elders and then they received God’s Spirit. So there’s a process. Just read through the book of Acts and you can see how that process…
[Darris] It’s not an overnight matter. It’s not an instantaneous matter.
[Gary] No, no, no. Not just give my heart to the Lord and suddenly I receive God’s Spirit. It’s a process that in the Scripture.
[Steve] The Bible doesn’t describe it as something you can pray down or work up and somehow get the Spirit. It doesn’t describe that at all. In fact, at the end of Acts chapter 2, Peter says very clearly the way you receive the Spirit is you repent and be baptized, and it says you will receive the Spirit and by the laying on of hands. So that begins that process immediately when we repent and change and we receive the Spirit by God’s minister’s laying their hands on us. And so it’s clear throughout the book of Acts.
[Darris] You’ve mentioned laying on of hands. When you get further into the story of Acts, there is an account where Phillip goes down to Samaria and he baptizes individuals but there’s an individual called, Simon the Magician who is there. And he wants the gift that this power that comes from the Holy Spirit, and he desires them… We did a program on Simon Magus—Simon the Magician. And what he must have seen was something tangible in people’s lives because of the Holy Spirit.
[Gary] Well not only did he see that, what’s interesting in that account is that they were baptized. He was baptized.
[Gary] And yet did not receive the Spirit even though he was baptized. The apostles had to come down from Jerusalem and lay hands on him. So that shows how important the laying on of hands is in this receiving of the Spirit.
[Steve] Yeah, in fact he wanted to buy that power so that he could lay hands on people and give that Spirit. And so, since he was a magician I think he wanted that in that sense, but I bet he also saw the fact that there was a power in people’s lives. Where their lives were changed. He probably knew some of those individuals personally and he saw their changes in their life, in their perspective, in the way they acted and the things they said and what they did. And that was evidence of the power of God’s Spirit working in their lives.
[Darris] We should mention that Peter didn’t actually lay hands on Simon, though he wanted that gift, and he said basically you’re of a different spirit. That’s not going to work here. But again, what he saw—you know we talked about repentance. That’s not a term people use today. We use it a lot in our program, we think people know, but let’s really break that down. What does it mean to repent?
[Gary] You know, in the Old Testament there’s a couple of different words that are translated from the Hebrew into English, translated “repent.” But one of them is very interesting. It means to turn and walk the other way. Like you’re going in one direction and God comes into your life and turns you around and you go the other direction.
[Darris] And you respond to that.
[Gary] And you respond to it, but that shows you how powerful the concept is. That everything in your life changes and actually turns into the opposite of where you were going before. So that gives us an inkling into just the enormity of what repentance is really all about.
[Steve] That idea of completely changing your life and turning it around can’t be excluded from the idea of repentance. In fact, when you look at the Greek side of that word “repent and be baptized,” it carries the connotation that I have to rethink my life or to perceive it again, or to think again about it. That I’m going this way, but wait a second, I’ve got to rethink my life and line it up with God’s way. And so repentance carries that meaning as well, that I have to change and live my life God’s way through the power of His Holy Spirit.
[Darris] And I think that’s really what we’re wanting to get across to people today. We are offering this booklet, The Power of the Holy Spirit. That it is indeed a power that God gives to us as His gift based upon faith and repentance. But it is a power to actually change our lives far more than these charismatic, fraudulent practices and beliefs that people have. What really people want today, they want the ability to change their life and to have a different makeover and approach toward God and toward life, and this is the key, this is the answer to it.
[Steve] It’s not a momentary thing. It’s not just a Sunday morning, feel-good kind of thing. When you receive God’s Spirit, you have the power to overcome sin! You have the power to a changed life. Problems that you’ve had, issues that you’ve dealt with, you have the means by God’s Spirit to change and be different and be Christ-like. That is an awesome power that God blesses us with when we do repent and we are baptized and then we do receive His Spirit.
[Gary] Well when look at the writings of the apostle Paul—You talk about 1 Corinthians.
[Gary] He talks about the gifts of the Spirit of which speaking in tongues is one of them. And everybody would like to have gifts from God, you know that we could use in ways to show that God’s with us. But, in 1 Corinthians 12, he goes through and he tells people about these gifts and at the very end of that chapter—now remember, there’s no chapters in 1 Corinthians. It was a letter, but they were added later. But at the end of the chapter, it says I show you a more excellent way. 1 Corinthians 13 is about the love of God being exhibited in our lives. It is much more important to have the fruit of God’s Spirit…
[Darris] And love is the first of those fruits that’s mentioned in Galatians 5.
[Gary] …in Galatians 5. It is more important to have that. Those then will lead us to use our gifts correctly. Otherwise gifts just become a way of aggrandizing ourselves.
[Steve] I think it’s amazing when you look at those nine fruits that are listed in Galatians 5:22 Galatians 5:22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
American King James Version×. They’re evidence of the fact that we are submitting our lives to God. That we do have love. We do have peace. We have joy. We have self-control. And that evidence is there because we’ve submitted our lives to the Spirit. And that’s a means of overcoming all of the difficulties that we face in life.
[Darris] Here’s the real point we want our audience to receive and that’s don’t’ settle for a fraud. Don’t settle for something that isn’t the real deal when it comes to the power of God’s Holy Spirit. And that’s really what we’re talking about today when it comes to this subject of tongues as people use it, and what the Bible really shows to be the power of God’s Spirit given to us.
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Charismatic speaking in tongues is a feature of Pentecostal forms of religion. You may have even done it yourself thinking that it’s a sign of God’s presence in you. But be careful. The Bible says to test the spirits to see if they are of God.
The Bible shows a better way to receive power from God to permanently change your life for the good. Don’t be fooled by a counterfeit religious experience. Take our offer of the booklet, The Power of the Holy Spirit and look into the Word of God to see how to connect to the vibrant, life-changing power of God.
Thanks for watching our program and remember to join us in praying, “Thy Kingdom come.” For Beyond Today I’m Darris McNeely.
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