Monday, February 20, 2012

Should West Virginians Speak in Tongues? An Overview of Tongues in the New Testament

1. The occasion of Pentecost introduces tongues as an evangelistic tool provided to the Apostles and some early Christians so they could preach the Gospel to people who spoke other languages (Acts 1:4, 8-9; 2:1-11; I Corinthians 14:21-22). Modern tongues-speakers do not appear to use the gift of tongues for evangelistic or missionary purposes.

2. The term “glossa” in Acts 2 definitely refers to human languages. These are listed as languages such as Arabic, Coptic, Greek, Latin, and various regional dialects (Acts 2:6-11). I Corinthians 14:10-11; 21 describes the languages under discussion as languages in this world that have meaning--"There are all sorts of languages in this world, none of which are without meaning."

3. These languages possessed content or meaning. Peter's sermon in Acts 2 is an example of that content, while I Corinthians 14 describes the content as prayers, thanksgivings, and praise which could edify if translated and could be used to declare the wonders of God. The phrase in verse 2--"in his spirit he speaks mysteries"--makes reference to things that must be made clear in order to be understood. To say that the speaker is speaking only to God and is speaking mysteries is to say that no one else knows what in the world he is saying because there is no interpreter. In every case in which the word is used in the NT, it refers to meaningful truths, not to meaningless sounds. The modern practice of tongues-speaking does not appear to involve "languages" that are human, or that posses grammar, words, or syntax, or that are capable of representing meaning or content.

4. These languages were capable of edifying the speaker, in the same way that prophecy edified the church, and could edify the recipients if understood or translated (I Corinthians 14:4, 16). This means that the languages were understood by the person speaking them (I Corinthians 14:2-4, 14-17, 28). The clause in verse 13--"my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful,"--should be understood to mean "I pray with a spiritual gift, but I produce nothing intelligible or that can be comprehended."  It does not mean that the speaker did not know what he or she was saying.  In the modern practice of tongues-speaking, there is usually no claim to personal comprehension of what is being said. Therefore, the speaker cannot be edified by the content of his or her "speech." This invalidates tongues that are used for private, personal prayer purposes. Neither is there usually a translator who can provide a translation that will edify others on public occasions.

5.  The use of the gift of tongues was subject to the will of the speaker (I Corinthians 14:26-33).  The spirits of the prophets are subject to the will of the prophets. In the modern practice of tongues-speaking, tongues sometimes involve a euphoric atmosphere and sometimes a trance-like state. The "Spirit" comes upon the tongues speaker to create a condition suitable for tongues-speaking.   Additionally, the use of spiritual gifts in worship services was subject to rules of order (I Corinthians 14:26-40).  Paul lists at least three of these:  1)  All tongues must be interpreted, 2) must be done one at a time, 3) must not interrupt the order of a worship service.  The modern practice of tongues-speaking often violates all three of these principles.

6. Certain spiritual gifts are no longer necessary after passing of the Apostles and the completion of Scripture.  Here is an exposition of I Corinthians 13:8-12 that expounds on this.

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