Article - Speaking in Tongues

Speaking in tongues refers to the instantaneous, miraculous ability to speak in another human being’s language without any prior knowledge of such language. On the Day of Pentecost the apostles were empowered to exercise this spiritual gift/miracle. The massive audience of Jews was amazed that the apostles were able to speak in their own dialect (Acts 2:1-12). Cornelius and his household were also empowered to speak in languages other than their own (Acts 10:44-46; 11:15-16). The Ephesian disciples received this miraculous gift after Paul the apostle laid his hands upon them (Acts 19:1-7). Based on these rare instances, it is obvious that the ability to speak in tongues was not common among all Christians - nor was it intended to be. Simple “no” answers to Paul's questions found in 1 Corinthians 12:28-30 demonstrate this: all Christians were not designed or required to be apostles or prophets; or to be able to perform gifts of healing or speak with tongues. Speaking in tongues was not intended to be a part of becoming a Christian or evidence that everyone who received this gift was a genuine, complete Christian as opposed to an inferior, incomplete Christian. If so, to contend that every Christian must be baptized with the Holy Spirit with evidence of speaking in tongues would force one to also conclude that every Christian could cast out demons, pick up poisonous snakes or drink deadly poison without harm, and heal the sick (Mark 16:17-18). Speaking in tongues was a sign/miracle designed to confirm to unbelievers that what was being miraculously spoken and understood was the true word of God (Mark 16:20; 1 Corinthians 14:22). If a language was being spoken that no one knew or could interpret, the Christian who had this gift had to be silent in the church assembly (unlike many groups today who claim to speak in tongues in their assemblies, yet, are merely “speaking into the air” according to 1 Corinthians 14:9, 27-28). Furthermore, the miraculous ability to speak in tongues was not meant to last until the end of the Christian age. It was to cease along with other miraculous abilities “when that which is perfect has come” (1 Corinthians 13:8-10). The “perfect law of liberty” was completed in the final writing of the New Testament (James 1:21-25); therefore the miraculous ability to speak in tongues has ceased.

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