Pentecostalism teaches that the gift and practice of speaking in unknown languages in the church today is a continuation of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Acts. But this view is fundamentally at odds with what scripture teaches about tongues. First and foremost, it misses what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14 where he explains to the church that the gift of tongues was a sign for unbelievers. Quoting from Isaiah, Paul references the passage where God prophesied that he would speak to Israel in other tongues but even then, they would not hear.
What is also clear from Paul’s teaching is that much of what he is referring to as speaking in tongues, would not mesh in any way with the Pentecostal practice today. Paul is using tongues to mean languages, and when he says to “speak in an unknown tongue”, there is no reason to assume he means that somehow the speaker does not understand the tongue he is speaking in. When approached from this perspective, the meaning of these passages suddenly becomes much clearer, as Paul is obviously describing how to deal with the disunity and barriers to communication caused by those who cannot understand one another. Why is prophecy (declaring the truth of God’s word) better than tongues? Because prophesying (declaring who God is) actually builds up the church, whereas the act of speaking in a different language, all by itself, does nothing, (and actually, speaking in a different language when no one else can understand you is actually a waste of time and can be more about showing off or exercising control by cutting people out of the conversation). Anyone who has ever traveled to a foreign country and needed to speak through an interpreter will understand this implicitly. The moment you are able to speak directly to one another in the same language, all other tongues are dismissed as nothing more than a barrier.
Once we better understand these passages, we also realize that much of how we think about tongues and spiritual gifts, in general, has been influenced by bad doctrine. And while in this episode we are not going to spend a great deal of time on this issue, we do want to open the door to begin talking about Cessationism. Paul said he had the gift of tongues more than any other man, but did that mean that every time he spoke there were tongues of fire and people heard him in their own language regardless of what language he was speaking? Or was Paul incredibly gifted with languages, so much so that he could learn languages in a way that would seem miraculous compared to how most people take years and years of effort to learn to speak a new language? We’re planning to record an episode that deals with this issue more directly, but in this episode, we think it’s enough to begin reframing the way we think about tongues. Do you understand why God gave them? Do you understand the place they have in the church? And do you understand how God is glorifying himself, by fulfilling his word, by allowing the gospel to be spread, and by giving good gifts to his church? Please join us as we discuss this very important topic.
Bible Translations: https://theconqueringtruth.com/2023/03/making-sense-of-all-the-bible-translations-ep-112/
Production of Reformation Baptist Church of Youngsville, NC
Hosts – Dan Horn, Jonathan Sides, Charles Churchill and Joshua Horn
Technical Director – Timothy Kaiser
Theme Music – Gabriel Hudelson