MIRACLES: Speaking in Tongues

By Cecil Willis

The first instance we find record of any person’s speaking in tongues after the ascension of Christ is recorded in Acts 2. First, let it be understood that the Bible says nothing of speaking in “unknown tongues”. However, it does use the terms “other tongues” and “kinds of tongues”, but never “unknown tongues”.

Notice now Acts 2:1-13: “And when the day of Pentecost was now come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound as of the rushing of a mighty wind and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them tongues parting asunder, like as of fire; and it sat upon each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. Now there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound was heard, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speaking in his own language. And they were all amazed and marveled, saying, Behold, are not all these that speak Galileans? And how hear we, every man in our own language wherein we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, in Judea and Cappadocia, in Pontus and Asia, in Phrygia and Pamphylia, in Egypt and the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and so-journers from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians, we hear them speaking in our tongues the mighty works of God. And they were all amazed, and were perplexed, saying one to another, What meaneth this? But others mocking said, They are filled with new wine.”

You will notice on this occasion that the apostles received the Holy Spirit. The purpose of their reception of the Holy Spirit was to enable them to speak in tongues which they had never learned. The 17 nationalities of people were present. God wanted them to be taught the gospel. Hence, a miracle was performed upon the apostles, so that they were enabled to speak in languages that these foreigners could understand. Notice in verse 11, the people said, “we hear them speaking in our tongues the mighty works of God.” The employment of this language was perfectly intelligible to the hearers. Let it never be said that the apostles had learned all these various languages through the process of natural education. Such was not the case. They that spoke were all Galileans. They spoke in languages which they had never learned. They did this by miraculous means. It would be profitable for us to discuss this phenomena in connection with the so-called tongue-speaking of today.

From the passage we have already read it should be apparent that speaking in tongues was speaking in a language, but, have you ever attended a religious service today in which the people who “receive the Holy Spirit” and who received the power to speak in tongues, spoke in an intelligible language? Could any person from any other land have understood what they were saying? Did they speak in French, German, Spanish, Greek or Hebrew? Thy certainly did not. The point that we are trying to make is that people who claim the power to speak in other tongues today do not do the same thing that people who spake in tongues in New Testament times did. Modern-day speaking in tongues is nothing more than a conglomeration of unintelligible jabber. You find no such practice in the New Testament.

A second reference to speaking in tongues is found in Acts 10:46. The apostle Peter had been directed to the household of Cornelius, a Gentile, and had preached the gospel to them. Then the scripture says that the Jews “heard them speak with tongues and magnify God.” These Gentiles were speaking in tongues. On the day of Pentecost, the power to speak in tongues was given ire order to enable the Jews to teach those whose language they had never learned. On this occasion, power to speak in tongues was given to show the Jews that the Gentiles also had a right to the gospel of Christ. You will remember that the Jew felt that a Gentile was but a dog, and later they criticized Paul for preaching to the Gentiles. The scripture says that after they saw the signs done by the Gentiles, “they held their peace and glorified God, saying, Then to the Gentiles also hath God granted repentance unto life” (Acts 11:28).

In 1 Cor. 12:1-10, 30, Paul discussed nine spiritual gifts. “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant. Ye know that when ye were Gentiles ye were led away unto those dumb idols, howsoever ye might be led. Wherefore I make known unto you, that no man speaking in the Spirit of God saith, Jesus is anathema; and no man can say, Jesus is Lord but in the Holy Spirit. Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are diversities of ministrations, and the same Lord. And there are diversities of workings, but the same God, who worketh all things in all. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit to profit withal. For to one is given through the Spirit the Word of wisdom and to another the word of knowledge, according to the same Spirit: to another faith, in the same Spirit; and to another gifts of healings, in the one Spirit; and of healings, in the one Spirit; and to another workings of miracles; and to another prophecy; and to another discernings of spirits: to another divers kinds of tongues: and to another the interpretation of tongues:”

He says that there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. The enumerated gifts are as follows: “the word of wisdom”, “the word of knowledge”, “faith”, “healings”, “workings of miracles”, “prophecy”, “discerning of spirits”, “divers kinds of tongues” and “the interpretation of tongues”.

As we have previously studied, the spiritual gifts were all a part of the miraculous demonstration accompanying the preaching of the word of God prior to its completion in the written form. After that which was perfect was come, namely the written revelation, that which was in part, namely the spiritual gifts, was done away. Furthermore, in Mk. 16:17-20 we find speaking in tongues listed as one of the signs that was to follow believers. They were to cast out demons, speak in other tongues, take up serpents, drink any deadly thing, and lay hands of the sick. By the same token that we know the handling of serpents and drinking deadly things are not perpetuated, we also know that speaking in tongues was a temporary power, and no man today has that ability. The Holy Spirit gave power to the early disciples to speak in tongues which they had not learned. This, as the other miracles was to confirm the word spoken. once the word was confirmed, that miracle, as well as the others, was discontinued. If you doubt that to be true, get any person who claims the power to speak in tongues, choose any language, of which he has not studied, and ask him to speak that language. The utter impossibility of his doing so will be absolute proof of the fact that he does not have divine power, and if he begins to speak some senseless jabber, you know immediately that he does not have the power to speak in a language which he has not learned, or he would do that instead.

In summary of our series of lessons on miracles, let it be understood that God has the power to perform miracles. He has the power to work miracles today, should He have chosen to do so. But it has never been a question of whether God has the power to work miracles, but always has been a discussion of whether God is working miraculous happenings through finite beings this day. Miracles were for a temporary purpose. They served their purpose and were done away when that which is perfect came.

Truth Magazine XXI: 15, pp. 230-231
April 14, 1977