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The Most Misunderstood Gift of the Spirituals - Tongues (Glossa)! 

I receive a lot of email about various biblical topics and tongues is one that seems to be the least understood in the Body of Christ. The following is in answer to a truth seeking believer on the subject. Some will perhaps agree and many probably will not, but I think my article has merit:


The Scripture passages that deal with tongues in the New Testament are Acts 2:1-13; I Corinthians 12:1-11, 27-30; I Corinthians 14 (whole chapter). Other than these there are no more Scriptures that deal with tongues. It is a controversial issue in the Church worldwide and in most cases mishandled. 

(1) The first application of tongues in Acts 2 is the coming of the Holy Spirit on the feast day of Pentecost.  Notice there is both a spiritual and physical manifestation. The Holy Spirit came into the reborn spirits of all the believers both men and women assembled in the upper room as they had been praying and waiting upon His arrival (Acts 1:14)  As proof of His new indwelling ministry, cloven tongues of what resembled fire (2:3) sat upon each believer (probably around the head area) and they all spoke in tongues (a heavenly or natural languages?). Charismatics believe this is proof tongues is an out of this world heavenly language. We will have to look at other Scriptures for the answer later.

The miracle of Pentecost among the Jews gathered to celebrate the Feast was more the ability to hear the 120 disciples (Acts 1:15) speaking in their own individual languages and dialects as well as the ability to hear and understand Peter’s message, which he more than likely delivered in his native tongue - Hebrew or Aramaic. See Acts 2:6-12.  Therefore, this is proof Acts tongues was the ability to hear and understand a Word from God in a human language that was not their native tongue. Likewise the one speaking the message was not trained or learned in diverse languages. The Greek words used for tongues in Acts is glossa and languages is dialektos(dialects). Notice in Acts 2:8 the Jews remark they were hearing the disciples speak in the languages of their birth - again proof it was not a bunch of jibberish, but real human earth languages.  When I taught on tongues as a pastor and would point this out to my Charismatic friends it would usually upset them for they were speaking in what I call the jibberish language.  And what really amazed me was it seemed the Holy Spirit had a language deficiency for many would just repeat the same word over and over - Shandusky, Shandusky Shandusky!  

Let’s suppose a pastor or prophet comes to your Church and there are several different human languages spoken by the people in your congregation and as he begins to deliver his message or sermon, everyone hears and understands it in their native born language. That would be a  genuine Acts 2 tongue speech or gift of tongues.  Besides, it is preposterous to believe that Peter was speaking all the languages and dialects out his mouth simultaneously!  It was the power of the Holy Spirit upon the words or message of Peter to cause the hearers to understand it in THEIR NATIVE TONGUE! 

(2) Now, lets look at the I Corinthians 12:1-11 passage with I Cor. 14.  Here Paul introduces the “spirituals” or the gifts of the Holy Spirit (12:1).  He says there are several different gifts of the Spirit, but they come from the one and same Holy Spirit (12:4); also several kinds of ministries, but the same Lord (12:5). In 12:6 he says there are diverse effects or applications of these spiritual ministries, but the same God who directs all the work. Actually Paul is saying the Trinity - Father, Son and Holy Spirit are involved with the spiritual gifts and ministries, that is, they are the source. They do not originate with believers and/or any one minister. In 12:7 Paul says the manifestation of the Holy Spirit is given to every Christian for the profit of the whole Body of believers (the Church) and not for anyone person so gifted. This was to prevent spiritual pride or spiritual arrogance causing division in the Church. (See 12:12-26). 

In 12:8-10, Paul defines the individual spiritual gifts. Notice in 12:10 he lists tongues and the interpretation of tongues. In both cases the Greek word for tongues is glossalalia or tongue/language speech. It is not happenstance that he mentions tongues last in the list for it is not one of the primary or more important gifts (See 14:1-5). 

12:11 is very important, but most Charismatics ignore it or refuse to submit to the truth thereof.  Paul says all of the spiritual gifts work according to the ministry and operation of the Holy Spirit and it is He the Holy Spirit that determines what believer is given what gift. Believers are not to seek the gifts, but rather to discover what is their gift and use if for the edification of the whole Body of Christ not for themselves.  Note: this is not a contradiction of 14:1 where Paul says the Church is to desire the gifts of the Spirit - desire them in the sense of allowing them to operate in the Church not stifle them (See 14:39). Many believers both misuse the gifts or seek a gift like tongues which they have not been given.  (See 12:28-31 where Paul ask rhetorical questions such as, “Do all have the gift of tongues and do all have the gift of interpretation of tongues?”).  The answer is a resounding NO! Then in 14:26-31, Paul admonishes the Church to maintain order by no more than 3 speaking in a tongue or giving a prophecy. However, if there is no one in the body with the gift of interpretation of tongues then the one who speaks in a tongue must keep quiet. THIS IS POSITIVE PROOF ALL MEMBERS OF THE BODY OF CHRIST DO NOT HAVE EITHER TONGUES OR THE INTERPRETATION OF TONGUES OTHERWISE HE WOULD NOT HAVE SAID TO KEEP QUIET. 

In 14:1-6 Paul compares the superiority of prophecy over tongues and the interpretation of tongues.Prophecy is to be understood from the Greek language as the spiritual ability to receive a word from God and speak it to the Body of Christ, that is give a revelation.  Today we have the fuller revelation of the Word of God contained in the Holy Bible so we are to be guided by the revelation of it and not by misguided believers continually claiming to have a Word from God that is  extra-biblical - not within or from the written Word. We know what the Word says, however we don’t know when someone claims to have a Word from God if it is from Him or from the the evil spirit. An old Testament example is wicked King Saul who began to prophesize when a spirit came upon him (See I Samuel 19:9-24). Note: in the O.T. the phrase "an evil spirit from the Lord" is sometimes used to indicate God allowed or even sent a demonic spirit to influence a wicked prophet (See I Kings 22:22-23).  

The prophet and the person speaking in a tongue - a natural human language he or she did not learn or is not their native born language must be for the edification of the entire Body of Christ and not for the individual and not to cause division. My experience in 45 years of ministry is that in 99% of the situations in which tongues are emphasized, confusion arises and strife is the result even splitting Churches apart. 

14: 7-11 Paul makes the case against “jibberish tongues” when he uses such metaphors as musical instruments that give a distinct sound whereby we recognize a flute or a harp or a trumpet. If any of these musical instruments were to give a different sound than what it was made to sound like, then we would not recognize it for the music it was intended to make. The same is for spiritual tongues - if we do not recognize the language being spoken then the intended revelation is all for nought. If there is no one in the Body of Christ that understands the language being spoken then tongues are not to be spoken in the Body of Christ.  By the way, Paul says tongues are for a sign to unbelievers not believers (See 14:22), which means tongues are more associated with the gift of evangelism than the pastorate or the elder body responsible for the teaching ministry of the Church.   

Here is a thought I imagine few have even thought about.  If genuine tongues are the Acts 2 example and it is more what is being heard than spoken, then why couldn't someone just utter a tongue and the Holy Spirit would give the hearers the ability to understand it? Because the tongue or language spoken must be an authentic genuine human language (remember God is the one who gave the human race diverse languages) for there to be an interpretation not some mouthy jibberish. 

I have been in Charismatic Churches where dozens of people were getting up and giving prophecies, speaking in tongues and interpreting tongues and it sounded like a three-ring circus - a lot of jibberish and false interpretations. This is all what I call manufactured Spirit - trying to mimic or reproduce the Church of Acts when that was an historical event in the early Church - the beginnings of the Church Age. Today the Church should be mature and emphasizing the more mature gifts such as the proclamation of the Word and the sharing of the gospel to the nations.(See 14:20). 

May I also say the majority of speaking in tongues in the Churches is being done by women, at least here in the America when Paul said the women must keep quiet in the corporate body (See 14:34-38).  See I Cor. 11:4-16 for “head covering”.  Note: Paul is not talking about women wearing a head scarf, but her head is her saved husband. She is not to speak unless her head (her husband) allows her too and then the elders (men) also approve for a woman to speak to the corporate Church in order to give a word or a revelation. This is ridiculed today in the modern Church because of feminism.  I have often asked pastors and women who do not believe in spiritual elder (male) authority in the Church to explain I Corinthians 11:10 - the majority have no clue. 

This is my understanding and experience with tongues in the Body of Christ so I trust the Holy Spirit to guide you in granting wisdom in these matters. 

God bless you.

Brother Allen Barber