"Tongues, They Shall Cease "

Jerry F. Bassett
Cottage Grove, Oregon

Use of Tongues Regulated

A common characteristic of nearly all modem assemblies where the use of tongues is claimed is that of disorder and confusion. Persons speak out, or more accurately make sounds, without restraint to themselves or regard for others in the assembly. Even if what they utter should be an intelligible language it would be impossible for the hearers to understand since often there axe many attempting to speak at the same time.

Such scenes as those enacted by modern tongue speakers are a marked contrast to the use of the gif t of tongues in the assemblies of the churches of the 1st Century as Paul's instruction to the church in Corinth attests. "How is it then, brethren? When ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying. If any man speaks in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret. But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God" (I Corinthians 14:26-28). From this reading it is evident that the use of tongues in the first century was closely regulated by apostolic command.

First, there were to be no more than two, or at the most three who spoke in tongues in any given assembly.

Second, each one who spoke was to do so "by course." That is, the speakers were to speak one at a time as is necessary in any group where a speaker is expected to impart knowledge to his hearers.

Third, the gift of tongues was to be used only with interpretation for those who did not understand the language being spoken.

And fourth, if there was no interpreter present the one with the gift of tongues to be silent in the church.

Again, it is evident that the use of tongues in the New Testament churches was not an unrestrained, self-gratifying experience of ecstasy, but the imparting of knowledge to a man in his own language even though it was unnatural and unknown to the speaker.

A Sign to Unbelievers

Most people today look upon the use of what they are pleased to call tongues as evidence that the speaker is "tuned in" with heaven and has blissful fellowship with God. In fact the modern tongue speaker is remarkably similar to the recent day psychedelic and his use of LSD. The "hippie" uses this hallucinatory drug to release his emotions and so "takes a trip" into a strange and fanciful world. In a way the tongue-speaker uses self-imposed power of suggestion to work hin1self into a state of hysteria or perhaps trance and so accomplishes the same thing.

However, the gift of tongues in the New Testament served the specific purpose of convincing the unbeliever that the one who spoke to him was speaking the word of God. Remember that the New Testament scriptures were not yet revealed in the beginning of the gospel and that its preachers could not therefore prove their preaching from the written word. Consequently, God supplied those first century preachers with miraculous gifts of the Spirit, some of which served as credentials proving that the bearer was sent from God and some of which, such as the gift of prophecy, served to provide the revelation of God's will. For the purpose of this article let us examine the following texts which show that tongues served the former purpose, that is, a miraculous credential proving that the speaker was sent from God.

1. Mark 16:15-20. Verses 15-16 of this text contain Jesus' commission to the apostles to preach the gospel to all the world promising that those who believed and were baptized would be saved. But how would the world be convinced that these unschooled and unsophisticated preachers knew what they were talking about? To accomplish that purpose Jesus promised them the ability to cast out devils, speak in new tongues, take up serpents, drink deadly poison and lay hands on the sick with certainty of recovery. (Incidentally, the claims of modern tongue speakers to having miraculous gifts would be much more convincing if they would try to perform all the miracles Jesus promised including that of drinking poison without harmful effect.) Finally, verse 20 emphasizes the purpose of these gifts saying, "And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following." By the express statement of Jesus, then, tongues were a confirmatory sign of the spoken word.

2. I Corinthians 14:22-24. "Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but for them which believe not. If 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 ye are mad? But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all."

Surely, if an unbeliever had come into an assembly of Christians and found them jabbering at each other in tongues they did not understand he would have thought, as Paul said, that they were mad. However, had an unbeliever who spoke a foreign tongue come into an assembly and found there a man who did not speak his tongue, but who was miraculously able to do so, it would have been a convincing proof that this man was guided in what he said by divine power.

3. Acts 2:1-11. In this text we find a demonstration of the facts stated above in Mark 16:15-16. The multitude present that day were Jews and no doubt spoke Hebrew. However, many of them were foreign born Jews from every nation and spoke also the tongue of the nation in which they were born. On that day the Spirit came upon the apostles and empowered them to carry out the commission of Christ. But these apostles were simple men, unimpressive Jews from the less impressive provinces of Galilee. How would this multitude be convinced that they were sent by God and spoke the word of God? Verse 4 says that the apostles, being filled with the Spirit, spake with other tongues. Verses 6, 7, and I I say that those of the multitude who heard them were confounded and amazed because they heard these Galileans speak in their own native languages. And the remainder of the chapter indicates that the apostles, Peter in particular, used the captivation of this multitude with this awesome display of divine power to preach to them the gospel of Christ.

Clearly, then, tongues were for a sign to the unbeliever to convince him that the one speaking was sent of God.

TRUTH MAGAZINE, XII: 8, pp. 16-17
May 1968