“Forbid not to speak with tongues” (1 Cor. 14:39).
Among Christians there are two extreme views of speaking in tongues.
One extreme view is the belief that people who never speak in tongues are lost and on their way to hell. This view is based on the notion that the initial external evidence of receiving the Holy Spirit is speaking in tongues, and if a person has never spoken in tongues, that is evidence they do not have the Spirit and therefore do not belong to Christ, because “if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his” (Rom. 8:9).
Brethren, I, like Paul, speak in tongues more than ye all. And like Paul, I would that ye all spake with tongues. Nevertheless, I reject this false notion.
The opposite extreme view of speaking in tongues is the notion that all modern-day manifestations of speaking in tongues are deceptions and delusions, inspired either by people’s fleshly wishful thinking, or by demonic spirits.
So one extreme view says that you are lost if you do not speak with tongues, while the other extreme view says that you are lost (or at least deceived) if you do speak with tongues.
First let me address the first extreme I mentioned. A person receives the Holy Spirit when they sincerely believe in Jesus/Yeshua, because “no man can say that Jesus is Lord, but by the Holy Ghost” (1 Cor. 12:3).
A person receives the Holy Spirit before speaking in tongues. The disciples spoke in tongues “as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4). The Spirit had to be in them to give them utterance, and the Spirit was in them prior to Pentecost, because after Yeshua’s Resurrection, “He breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost” (John 20:22). They received the Spirit at this time, but they were instructed to tarry in Jerusalem, where they would “be endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). This power would come when they would “be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence” (Acts 1:5).
The Spirit is received first, and the filling or baptism of the Spirit accompanied by tongues comes after that. In the case of the Apostles, it came fifty days after. In the case of some people today, it might come fifty years after, or it might come immediately after.
Some people will disagree with me, but I believe that when a redeemed person is baptized with the Spirit, endued with power by the Spirit, that the initial outward manifestation to be expected is speaking in tongues. I believe this because in the Book of Acts, this was the normal outward manifestation that accompanied the filling of the Holy Spirit. When the Apostles prayed for people to be filled with the Spirit, they knew God had answered their prayer when they heard the people speaking in tongues. When Peter heard Cornelius and the other Gentiles speaking in tongues, this was the proof that they had received the power of the Holy Spirit. “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we [‘just as we did,’ NASB]?” (Acts 10:4)
Some people ask, “Is it possible for a person to be filled with the Holy Spirit if they have never spoken in tongues?”
I do not believe the Bible absolutely rules out that possibility, so I cannot say it’s absolutely impossible. However, I believe that if a person is truly filled with the Spirit, he has within him the power and the ability to speak in tongues, whether he realizes it or not, and whether he wants to or not. I believe this because speaking in tongues was the normal outward manifestation when people were filled with the Spirit in Acts, and because Paul said, “I would that ye all spake with tongues” (1 Cor. 14:5). Paul wished that all God’s children spoke with tongues, and I likewise wish that for everyone.
Now let me address the extreme notion that all modern-day manifestations of speaking in tongues are deceptions and delusions. This notion is not based on the Bible. It is based on the emotion-filled personal opinions of well-meaning but misinformed people.
I have read and heard arguments from various people against speaking in tongues, and they all have one thing in common: They do not use the Bible to argue their point.
Opponents of tongues cannot give a solid Biblical argument against speaking in tongues, because the Bible is for speaking in tongues, not against it. Therefore the opponents of tongues have to resort to anecdotal accounts of the flaws of Pentecostal and charismatic Christians. “That tongue-talking televangelist fell into sexual immorality!”
Yes, that sometimes happens. It also sometimes happens with preachers who do not speak in tongues. It also happened to Samson, yet Samson’s gift and power were from Yahweh. Samson’s strength remained with him for quite some time, even after he had fornicated with a Philistine harlot. The flaws of a minister, whether real or imagined, do not negate the reality of the spiritual gift.
Opponents of tongues point out that some pagan idolators speak in tongues. That may be true. However, this does not prove that speaking in tongues by disciples of Yeshua is a delusion. Pagan idolators mimic true worship in many ways. Pagans pray and petition their gods. They sing songs of praise to their gods. They defend the doctrines of their gods. They celebrate the festivals of their gods. They fast and lift up their hands and present offerings to their gods.
Pagans mimic true worship in every way possible. Therefore it should be no surprise to learn that they speak in tongues in an effort to mimic the real thing. Pagans speaking in tongues is evidence that the genuine Holy Spirit-inspired speaking in tongues is real. The devil has no reason to counterfeit something unless the genuine exists, just as a criminal has no reason to print counterfeit $90 bills.
If you think that modern-day speaking in tongues by disciples of Yeshua is a deception, I ask you to set aside any emotionally-based bias you might have, and consider what the Bible actually says about speaking in tongues. The Bible states the following facts:
1. Yeshua said that one sign which would follow them that believe is “they shall speak with new tongues” (Mark 16:17).
2. When people were filled with the Spirit in Acts, they spoke in tongues.
3. One of the charismatic gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12 is speaking in tongues.
4. He who speaks in an unknown tongue “speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him” (1 Cor. 14:20).
5. When someone speaks in an unknown tongue, “in the spirit he speaketh mysteries” (1 Cor. 13:21).
6. “He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself” (1 Cor. 14:4).
7. Paul wished that all believers spoke with tongues (1 Cor. 14:5).
8. Paul said “if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth” (1 Cor. 14:14).
9. Paul said he would pray and sing with the spirit [i.e., in unknown tongues which he could not understand] and he would also pray and sing with the understanding [i.e., in his own native language which he could understand] (1 Cor. 14:15).
10. Paul thanked God that he spoke with tongues more than all the Corinthians (1 Cor. 14:18).
11. Paul said, “Forbid not to speak with tongues” (1 Cor. 14:39).
For a Bible believer, the above facts should be irrefutable proof that a phenomenon known as speaking in tongues really does exist. To deny the existence of this phenomenon is to deny the truth of the Scriptures. The only question then is whether modern-day speaking in tongues by disciples of Yeshua is the real thing or something phony. To those who claim it is phony, I would ask two questions:
Q #1: Why do you believe it is phony? Because it sounds like unintelligible gibberish to you? Well of course it does! If you hear someone speaking any foreign language that you do not know, it will sound like unintelligible gibberish to you. If you happen to overhear someone praying in an unknown tongue, you are not meant to understand it. “For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries” (1 Cor. 14:2).
Q #2: If modern-day speaking in tongues by disciples of Yeshua is phony, then what does genuine speaking in tongues look like? How is the genuine manifestation of speaking in tongues different from what I do? If what I do is phony, please tell me what the real thing looks like, and how it differs from what I do.
As a young believer I saw from Acts 2:39 that the promise of the Holy Spirit was not just for first-century believers, but also for “all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” That included me. I saw from Luke 11:11-13 that my heavenly Father would “give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him.” I did not need to be afraid that He might give me an unholy demonic spirit if I asked Him for the Holy Spirit.
So I asked Him to fill me with the Holy Spirit. As I prayed, I began speaking in an unknown tongue. That was around 1973. These past 40-plus years, hardly a day has gone by when I have not spent some time privately praying in tongues. I do it when I’m in my prayer closet, when I drive, when I walk, and at various times throughout the day. Sometimes I’ll be occupied with something I’m working on, and I’ll notice that I am unconsciously whispering prayers in an unknown tongue, without even realizing it. It’s almost second nature to me, like breathing.
So tell me: If what I do is phony, what does the real thing look like? How is the genuine manifestation of tongues different from what I do?
When I pray in an unknown tongue, I do not understand the words, but I do not need to. My spirit is praying and speaking to God. I am speaking mysteries in the spirit and I am edified by it. How do I know this? Because the Bible says so.
How does it work? How is it that praying in tongues produces these benefits? I don’t know. I do not need to understand the mechanics of how doing something that seems foolish to the natural mind can produce spiritual benefits, but the Bible says that it does. I believe the Bible, so I do it and I reap the benefits.
Some believers resist speaking in tongues because they cannot understand how it works. They feel intimidated by things they cannot understand with their natural mind. But you do not need to understand the mechanics of something to use it and to benefit from it. I cannot begin to tell you how a computer works, but I can use my computer to produce this blog post.
We do not need to understand the mechanics of how praying in tongues works. Hey, I can’t even tell you the mechanics of how praying in one’s native language works! So don’t get hung up on trying to understand how praying in tongues works. Just ask the Father to fill you, and receive the baptism of the Spirit. And forbid not to speak with tongues.
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