September 19, 2012

Speaking with tongues speakers, pt. 2

by Josiah Grauman

edifyYesterday we looked at three simple instructions from 1 Corinthians 14:27, today we continue…

4. Tongues are only to be exercised in the church if they edify others. “Let all things be done for building up” (1 Cor. 14:26). Everyone agrees. However, how are we edified? Paul is very clear: edification only occurs through understanding (1 Cor. 14:5-12, 19, cf. Rom. 12:1-2). This, of course, is why translation was not optional. If we do not understand, we cannot be edified. If something does not edify, it has no business in Christ’s church.

error5. All tongues’ spoken messages must be obeyed. If the Holy Spirit speaks, we must obey (Isa. 66:2; Heb. 12:25), thus the need for discernment (1 Cor. 14:32). The implication of this truth is immense, because not only are tongues a gift of the Spirit, but their translation as well (1 Cor. 12:10). This is where things get tricky for the requisite tongues’ translator (Which could be the tongues’ speaker or another, 1 Cor. 14:13). If the translation contains any error whatsoever, or is a prophecy that fails to come true, or in any way contradicts the Scriptures, then the Holy Spirit cannot be the one speaking. This is why Biblical tongues cannot be fabricated in a way that obeys 1 Corinthians 14. I can’t speak for 10 seconds without making some sort of error with my tongue (Cf. Jas. 3:6), and if my tongue makes an error, I cannot truthfully claim the Holy Spirit was in complete control of it. Could you? And what would you call someone who attributed an erroneous quote to you that you did not actually say?

pray6. The tongues’ speaker must pray while speaking in tongues. If Paul didn’t understand what the Spirit was saying through tongues, then his mind was unfruitful and he could not be edified, therefore, he prayed (1 Cor. 14:14-15). This explains the somewhat enigmatic opening verses of chapter 14 where Paul explains why prophesy is superior to tongues: Everyone is edified through prophesy because everyone understands it. However, if an unknown ‘tongue’ was spoken, the only person that could possibly be edified by that utterance was the person speaking, and that if he was praying. Paul is almost sarcastically asking the tongues’ speaker: Do you go to Church to edify yourself? If so, please return to point 4 above. This also illustrates the explicit purpose of the gifts: the mutual building up of others, not of oneself (1 Cor. 12:7; 14:12; cf. 1 Pet. 4:10).

Now if someone has listened up to this point, they might be beginning to doubt whether all the tongues they have experienced are biblical tongues. So, it might be helpful at this point to offer a quick definition of tongues and their purpose:

MosesActs 2:6-11 is very clear that tongues were human languages that people understood, serving the purpose of transitioning to the new message of salvation quickly so that all could hear of Jesus before they died (Tongues are said to be a sign for unbelievers, 1 Cor. 14:22). Peter stood up and said that the salvation message had been appended: from that day forward everyone had to believe in the name of Jesus to be saved (Acts 4:12). Of course, if I was a Jew, I would want good reason to trust Peter over mighty Moses.

This is why God bore witness with the apostles and prophets through authenticating signs (We cannot lay claim to this group since not even the author of Hebrews does, Heb. 2:4; those were signs of the apostles, not of all believers, 2 Cor. 12:12; and that foundation was laid only once, Eph. 2:20). However, while God only used a few to authenticate the message, tons of Christians spoke in tongues so that everyone could hear quickly. Lastly, tongues verified even to perplexed Peter that salvation was being brought to the uncircumcised Gentiles, since they too bore the same sign (Acts 2:4; 10:45-47).

Of course, in my opinion, all these purposes have now been fulfilled since the canon is closed and sufficient. One wonders how anyone could claim a closed canon if the Holy Spirit is still speaking and translating today. Thus, I believe it is biblically impossible for tongues to be exercised today, and therefore the strategy of simply exhorting all charismatics to obey 1 Corinthians 14.

The three normal arguments against tongues being human languages:

angelic tonguesa. Some use 1 Corinthians 13:1 to ‘prove’ that tongues are angelic languages (I hesitate to engage those who say this is necessary so that Satan cannot thwart our prayers, since an angelic language would, in fact, be Satan’s mother tongue). Rather, I think this concept is more easily refuted exegetically, since Paul is clearly not claiming that he was omniscient (1 Cor. 13:2), and therefore, cannot be claiming that he could speak in angelic tongues. Paul’s point is clear: I don’t care what tongues you claim to speak in, if you don’t love, you’re just making noise. (And let’s be honest, many of our charismatic brethren excel in the area of loving others, and we can learn from them).

b. The claim that Paul teaches in Romans 8:26 that the Holy Spirit uses our tongues to intercede is patently false since Paul clearly states that this intercession is ‘too deep for words’ = inaudible (ἀλάλητος).

c. The notion that ‘various kinds of tongues’, 1 Corinthians 12:10, means some angelic, some inerrant, some not-so-inerrant, is also easily explained since the word ‘kinds’ (γένος) generally means families and is only used by Paul in 1 Corinthians to speak of different families of languages (1 Cor. 14:10).

upside downNow, if at any point in your conversation (which could take minutes or months) you feel like your charismatic brother is ready, I would encourage you to jump quickly to this last point. It is an unnerving thing to have your entire Christian world flipped upside-down. We need to be reminded that what we do have in Christ is so far surpassingly superior than external miracles that there is no longer any need to desire them.

For this I generally head over to John 16:7, where Jesus makes the remarkable claim that it’s better to have the Holy Spirit transforming our insides, than Christ working from the outside. “I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away”. That’s an amazing statement. I, for one, would love to be healed, for my son to walk, to watch storms calmed, breakfast created, etc. It sounds pretty great having the Sovereign at our side. That is, until we realize that the crowds who experienced all His miracles were so wicked that even after being healed by Christ, they crucified Him… wait, that’s how wicked I am too. And external miracles are incapable of convincing someone to believe and be saved (Luk. 16:31), incapable of sanctifying us, only the Spirit’s Word has those powers (Ro. 10:17; 12:2), therefore God has given us a superior miracle, the internal transformation of the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:18)!

fruitFinally, the Spirit’s work is observed primarily by His fruit, and not by His gifts. The Corinthians were known for having all the gifts (1 Cor. 1:7) and yet still being carnal (1 Cor. 3:1-3). My prayer is that when people enter our churches, that they be wowed, not by external signs, but by internal Christ-likeness. Instead of a fascination with the external, may we invest all our time and energy seeking His image, to be transformed into His likeness, through the study and application of His Word, for His glory.

Josiah Grauman


Josiah is the director of the 'Instituto de Expositores', a Spanish language training institute at Grace Community Church, where he and his wife serve as missionaries.
  • Brad

    Hey Josiah!

    I’m back.

    Just a few thoughts. Here are a few comments and how I
    would rewrite a few of your sentences. Hopefully, this helps describe where I
    am coming from!

    – We need to be reminded that what
    we do have in Christ is so far surpassingly superior than external miracles
    that there is no longer any need to desire them. (This is not Paul’s
    conclusion. He both sees the supremacy of what we have in Christ and encourages
    the Corinthians to desire the gifts. If I was Paul and saw the abuse of the
    gifts and tongues I would have banned and discouraged them. Instead, Paul
    corrects and encourages them).

    – Finally, the Spirit’s work is
    observed both by His fruit, and by His gifts.

    – The Corinthians were known for
    having all the gifts (1 Cor. 1:7) and yet still being carnal (1 Cor. 3:1-3) and
    yet Paul commanded them to continue pursuing the gifts – but in a godly way. (Paul
    could have just said, “forget about the gifts, what really counts is
    character.” Instead, it seems to me that he…1) addresses unholiness, 2)
    corrects the misuse of the gifts and 3) commands them to desire the gifts.)

    – Instead of a fascination with the
    external, may we invest all our time and energy seeking His image, to be
    transformed into His likeness, through the study and application of His Word, and
    in the empowerment and gifts of the Holy Spirit for His glory.
    This has been helpful for me!

    • Brad,

      I appreciate your points.

      I guess my main point at the end there is that it is easy for someone to claim they are a christian based on supposed gifts: I cast out demons, I prophesy, I, etc. and it sounds a lot like a group in Matthew 7. Biblically, the way we know the Spirit is working in our lives is if we love and are being sanctified.

      Hope that helps to clarify,
      Lord bless brother!

      • Brad

        Hey Josiah,

        Trying to understand the “Cessationist” position, my question is, “Does the Holy Spirit ever speak or guide outside of Scripture?” “Does the Holy Spirit ever speak to us today, where we are at, with the problems we are dealing with?”
        To be more specific, Does the Holy Spirit ever guide me to speak a word to my neighbor, even though I can’t point to a particular Scripture reference? Does God and His Spirit ever lead me to pursue and love certain people, even though there is not a specific command in Scripture? Does the Holy Spirit actually do something today in my neighborhood, in my context more than preaching the Bible?
        This comes out of an experience I had last night. We had all these Christians in our home who have grown up in Bible-believing/Grace Community type homes. And we had a time of confession and asking the Lord to wreck strongholds. All of the sudden people were confessing and pleading with the Lord to free them from the strongholds of porn, homosexuality, being sexually molested as a child, adultery, drugs, and many more crazy things. I just found myself wondering, “By being Bible-centered, am I completely missing where people really are?”
        These are the questions I am wrestling with. Really wrestling with!

  • Hi Josiah, I’ve never heard anyone claim your 5th point – then we need to obey a message & interpretation given in tongues. Don’t we see tongues used as either glorifying God (Acts 2) or for the churches edification? I don’t think there’s any NT example of anyone obeying a message given in tongues? So I don’t see how that could be a point against Biblical tongues today.

    • Jesse,

      I guess my point is that if the Holy Spirit is speaking, that is divine revelation, and therefore must be binding upon our lives to believe and/or obey. Don’t you think?

      Lord bless,

      • That makes logical sense, especially since the person speaking in tongues doesn’t understand what they are saying. However, in my experience, anyone exercising prophecy or tongues knows that there is the possibility of us injecting our own thoughts into what we say, therefore every spoken message must be evaluated by Scripture, and is never binding but only for encouragement, or confirmation of something God is already saying to someone.

        In other words, I don’t know any mainline Pentecostal denominations that believe, that through tongues or prophecy, we are gaining any new revelation that God hasn’t already given to us in His Word.

        Beyond tongues and prophecy, wouldn’t you say the Holy Spirit is also speaking through Scripture and preaching? That’s His work in teaching us, and it is divine revelation (because we are learning truths we can’t discover naturally), but not binding in the same way Scripture is. Is that any different then a message in tongues, or prophecy?
        Thanks for great push back!

        • I totally agree that the Spirit is speaking to us in Scripture, Heb. 12:25… thus, when I seek a word from Him, I read 🙂

          I guess what sort of seems odd to me is the idea that someone is giving a word from the Lord, through the Spirit controlling the tongue via tongues or a prophecy, but then “injects” himself.

          I totally agree with the importance of examining everything according to the Bible, I just don’t come to the conclusion that I should say, oh, that prophecy was 90% true, so I’ll accept the person as a true prophet and accept 90% of his prophesy as from the Lord. If someone says they are prophesying and only 90% comes true, what would the Bible call that sort of prophet? (cf. Dt. 18:20).

          Thank you for the sharpening!

          • DaveTea

            Josiah, I think other comments have covered much of what I have to say on the topic, though I did raise an eyebrow at point 5. Here I think you are introducing a requirement on believers where the scripture does not. Nowhere in the text does Paul say we must ‘obey’ tongues and so we shouldn’t read that into the text or require it of fellow believers. I can understand why you have made that logical deduction but I think we should stick to what the scripture actually says on the matter.

            The other point I wanted to raise was if you equate tongues (and prophecy as it was to be practised in Corinth) with authoritative revelation from God then you immediately run into this problem: where are the Corinthian prophecies or tongues messages that Paul speaks of? Surely (according to your logic) if they are truly words from God then we should have them in our bibles today? Yet we do not have a single text from anyone in the church at Corinth. In addition to this, what if archeologists found a genuine Corinthian prophecy that had been written down to edify those believers – would you advocate its inclusion into the canon? If not why not?

            Thanks again for another thought provoking post! I think it’s great to get Christians on both sides of the argument discussing these issues.

          • DaveTea,

            Thanks for your follow-up.

            1. I still fail to understand how I am making a logical deduction or saying something that the Scripture does not say, by saying that we must obey and believe messages spoken by God Himself. How is it not explicitely Biblical for us to believe and obey our Creator? Paul explicitely tells us that when the Spirit spoke in tongues, that the Spirit was speaking… if the Spirit tells us something, how we could possibly not believe and obey that? Even if it is not a direct command, anything God says would reveal His nature to us, and thus our worship of Him would necessarily conform itself to that revelation.

            2. Jesus spoke a lot of words that we don’t have in the Bible. So did Isaiah and a ton of other prophets. Those words were true and were binding upon all the hearers… yet God did not put them in the Bible. The Bible is specific revelation that is now a sufficient Word for everything we need. So no, we wouldn’t add Isaiah’s or Jesus’ other prophecies to the Bible, but that doesn’t mean that Jesus’ other words were less “God breathed” or were less binding upon His audience… what it does mean is that it is not binding upon us, because God chose not to preserve it. The Bible is everything we need… God has preserved exactly what He desired us to have and nothing else can be added (The canonization process is a whole different conversation, but no, even if we found supposedly inspired words we would not add them to the Bible because there would be no way to authenticate them, and no one directing their addition… unless Peter was here healing people in his shadow again).

            I hope that makes sense, and thanks again for your kind interaction,

            Lord bless,


          • DaveTea

            Thanks Josiah. Just a quick response to that. How do you understand Acts 21:3-5? Here we see disciples urging Paul ‘through the Spirit’ yet Paul does not obey and continues to Jerusalem. From your perspective wasn’t this word binding and shouldn’t Paul have obeyed? If this word was brought to him ‘through the Spirit’ then to disobey would be sin – did Paul sin here?

            Thanks again for your gracious interaction.


          • Hey Dave. Don’t mean to butt in to your conversation with Josiah, but Nate took a stab at answering this question in this article, with the coolest title on The Cripplegate: Throwing Prophecy under the Agabus.

          • DaveTea

            Thanks Mike – yes I saw that article a while back. However, the specific passage I am referring to is not the Agabus prophecy (Agabus foretold what would happen but did not tell Paul not to go).

            The point I am making is that the disciples in Acts 21:3-5 were urging Paul not to go to Jerusalem ‘through the Spirit’. If they told Paul not to go and it was the Holy Spirit who inspired them to say it then surely Paul was bound to obey them? So why could Paul seemingly disobey God? It seems to me that one can speak ‘through the Spirit’ and yet not be uttering authoritative, binding revelation from God (I’m not saying I fully understand this, but this is what the text seems to imply). I think this is how most continuationists would view tongues and prophecy in the Corinthians passages. Please let me know what you think!

        • Karen Butler

          “I don’t know any mainline Pentecostal denominations that believe, that
          through tongues or prophecy, we are gaining any new revelation that God
          hasn’t already given to us in His Word.”

          I agree. It is the wing of charismaticism that C Peter Wagner labeled the ‘Third Wave’ that is aberrant in this way. Sadly, is also the fastest growing segment of the church today. But this pragmatic extra-biblical revelation is dangerous, as I document here:

  • Pingback: Speaking with tongues speakers | the Cripplegate()

  • Drew Sparks

    This was a very helpful quick guide on how to converse with people with another view. I loved it, thanks. We need more stuff like this and this is why I return to this blog regularly. Its fantastic.

    A quick note that goes along with this, during my devotions this morning I was reading Acts 7 and it records at the end that Stephen was full of the spirit, and it made me think back to Acts 6 when he was chosen because he was full of the spirit, yet we never see him speak in tongues in either instance. Instead, we see a man who was fit to serve and content to die in the midst of persecution. If we were all full of the spirit in that way, the church would make a greater impact in this dark world.

    Great post, thanks.

    • Drew,

      Thanks for the encouraging comments!

      Lord bless,

    • Larry

      @Drew, Stephen being “full of the Spirit” means he was completely submitted and controlled by the Spirit. He was obedient to the demands of the Christian life.

  • Alexander

    Apologies if I missed this in your posts, but what is your position on individuals using tongues in their private prayer time?
    I’ve not experienced the gift of tongues and admit to being a little wary around this whole topic. HOWEVER, I am even more wary of emphatically stating what the Holy Spirit can and cannot do. I’m hesitant to put the God of the universe in a neat theological box and call into question the experiences of my (very) godly brothers and sisters who do practice this gift. I think we all need to practice a lot of humility on this one and perhaps agree to disagree (the family of God is diverse – that’s okay!)

    • Alexander,

      Good question.

      1. I would agree we should not put God in a box… unless He Himself does so :). In other words, it is not bad to say God cannot lie… that is faith the He is who He says He is. I hold Him at His word because that is what He has commanded me to do: trust that He is who He says that He is and that He does and does not do exactly what He reveals. So the real question is: Does God say that He gifts believer’s with private gifts?

      I think I address this in point 4 and at the very last line of point 6. The gifts were to build up others, not oneself. Paul obviously spoke in tongues more than anyone, but I would not take that to mean that he prayed in his closet in tongues, but that being God’s chosen instrument to proclaim His glory to the gentile nations that he spoke more often in those languages than anyone.

      Hope this helps to clarify my position,
      Lord bless,

      • Just to clarify Josiah, are you saying when Paul says that he speaks in tongues, he just means languages that he already knows and is using for sharing the gospel?

        • Jesse,

          Sorry I was not clear. No, I mean languages that the Holy Spirit gifted him to speak. That is, he did not know these languages, but the Holy Spirit controlled his tongue and spoke. Paul had no idea what he was saying, only the person listening who understood the language.

          Hope that helps, Lord bless,


          • Oh okay, no worries! I just wanted to make sure I was understanding what you were saying.

            That’s an interesting thought, I don’t see that happening outside of Acts 2. It seems from 1 Cor that it takes either the person speaking in tongues to pray for and to receive the interpretation, or someone else in the room with the gift of interpreting tongues.

            In the early days of the Pentecostal movement, they believed speaking in tongues were given for the purpose of missions. So they would listen to the person’s spiritual tongue, try to discern what kind of language it might be, then send them to that part of the world trusting that they would be able to preach to them in tongues without learning the language. Obviously this didn’t work out very well.

            I have known stories, and have seen it in person once, where someone who was speaking in tongues was speaking the language of someone who was in the room.

  • Thanks for the post Josiah. I am not charismatic, but do have charismatic friends that I admire and I am sure these thoughts will help us dialogue. However, I was wondering if you (or other commenters?) could give more of a known language defense? I never thought the three arguments against known language tongues that you refute were very strong, but I have a hard time reading 1 Cor 14 (especially v 2) and seeing known languages there. In particularly, if the language is to God and not men, and “nobody” understands it, how could it be known? Wouldn’t there be some (as in the Pentacost event) who would understand? Thanks

    • Jesse,

      Thanks for your question. I guess I wasn’t real clear in my point 6 about the enigmatic opening of the chapter. I’m new to this whole blog concept, and I’m admittedly not very good at making a point in only 1,200 words 🙂

      I think it is very important to understand that the context of 1 Corinthians 14 is the use of tongues in a church service, Acts 2 was different. If this is not understood I believe we miss the whole point.

      The one who speaks in a strange tongue in a church speaks to no one, no one understands him! You can hear someone saying: “We all speak Greek here, what are you doing speaking in Koonzime, the only person that understands that here is God. You can’t edify anyone in that language here, because edification comes through understanding… if we can’t understand, you are not using your gift properly, because the gifts were given to edify one another.”

      That would be my take anyhow,
      Lord bless,

  • Heather

    “Acts 2:6-11 is very clear that tongues were human languages that people understood”

    Yes! I was waiting for you to say this 🙂

    “Tongues are said to be a sign for unbelievers, 1 Cor 14:22”

    Yes, I also believe this to be true. But…I always thought it was specifically for the Jewish unbelievers, because 1 Cor 14:21 is a quote of Isaiah 28:11-12, “I will speak to this people.” I always thought God meant tongues, (“tongues” as in the ability to speak a human language you never previously knew, through the miraculous enabling of the Holy Spirit; not an unintelligible jumble of words), to be a sign for the Jews? I don’t know where that puts me theologically, but this is how I’ve understood the portions of Scripture on “tongues.” Have you heard this before?

    • Heather,

      That is not strange 🙂 I have heard it before. Specifically, the argument normally goes like this: Tongues are a transitional gift. You have God fearing Jews who, if they died in the diaspora the moment before Christ died, would go to heaven, but then the moment the message is “appended” and one had to believe in Christ, that same God fearing Jew would go to Hell, even though his belief system had not changed one bit. Thus, the necessity of God bringing the new message to all language groups really quickly (Philip is being transported around, etc.).

      I certainly think there is some legitimate aspects to that line of reasoning.

      Lord bless!

      • Heather

        Uh…that went way over my head lol

        Never heard that before. I just thought tongues was directed at unbelieving Jews, so if they came in the church and saw it being done (correctly: 2 or 3 in turn, interpreted), along with prohpesying, that the Holy Spirit would use that to convict them of their sins and they would declare God IS among them and that Jesus is indeed their Massiach.

  • Larry

    Certainly the issue of tongues sparks lively dialogue. Keep in mind for those who have grown up in that environment, “virtual” conversation probably will not bring them to truth. Neither will intellectual, volleying/reasoning. Nor, posting myriads of scriptures. I’m not saying its an empty pursuit altogether, (im jes sayin). “Tongue talkers” arguably need to come to the end of themselves, and resist living in denial, to be able to receive truth. Even then it can be a futile undertaking. John Macarthur has been dear friends with Jack Hayford (Church on the Way) for years and Hayford stills tells him he sees visions of Jesus. ,Macarthur responds, “You have a very vivid imagination” He no longer takes him to task. Overall, it is a work of the holy Spirit to have a “tongue talker” empty their “spiritual portfolio” of that error.

    • Larry,

      I guess I just have a hard time believing that “posting myriads of scriptures” “probably will not bring them to truth”. Perhaps I’m mis-reading you, so please forgive me if this is the case, but if someone is a believer, I always assume that reading the Scriptures will produce sanctification toward a correct understand of the truth… that’s why I teach it 🙂

      I certainly understand the frustration that we, I included, do not change as quickly as we’d like, but that just drives our hope in that day when we will be like Him, because we will see Him as He is 🙂

      Lord bless,

      • Larry

        @Hey Josiah. You seem to misintepret the entirety of what I’m saying. lol! I said, as far as a “tongue talker” they will not be prone to “coming to the light” by you or I blogging scriptures. Notice I said, “They’ll not be PRONE.” I didnt say it is in no way possible. “Tongue talkers” are a different breed. The scriptures done “virtually” however strengthen the resolve of those of us that embrace cessation. The tongue talkers will either come to the end of themselves and can be dealt with one and one, face to face, or being in an environment where they hear the whole counsel of God taught and the scriptures exposited they will come to thruth about the issue. As I’ve said , John Macarthur has been friends with Jack Hayford for years and Hayford is a “tongue talker.” Certainly Macarthur has spelled out the scriptural position. Hayford yet speaks in tongues and Macarthur views him as a man of integrity, an honorable man that loves Christ and is a true sheperd, and considers him a brother. John Piper believes in “tongue talking” as well as Matt Chandler. So, the issue is out there. If someone tells me they speak with tongues (private prayer, etc) I’m not going to task with them. But if I go to a church service and the worship leader is like , “Everybody pray in your prayer language.” I will have issue with that.

  • Bart

    Tongues reminds me of the pro life or pro choice stance. When we find out what position someone has on abortion, we tend to dismiss or accept the other things they say. Same with tongues. When we find out a Christian’s position on tongues, we find that we tend to dismiss or accept most of what they say as well. Tongues is to the Christian world what abortion is to the political world. Their position on it determines how we judge their credibility on everything else.

  • Jason Dahlman

    I’m a (reformed) continuationist and while I enjoyed reading your article, I can’t help but point out that your six points on tongues do not actually refute (or even attempt to refute) a biblical continuationist position. Basically you have faithfully critiqued an awful lot of ways that tongues are being abused in churches today. But you haven’t argued for the cessation of the gift of tongues (until the very end of your article). I guess my point is that I firmly agree with all six of your points about tongues (although I think your point #5 is a bit overstated since Paul encourages people to weigh what is said with regard to the use of the gift of prophecy in the church and I believe the case could make that a similar weighing could be applied to the interpretation of tongues). I think your 6 points provide very helpful, biblical guidelines for the use of this gift. It seems to me that your list actually makes a pretty good case for the ongoing use of the gift of tongues as long as it is kept within the biblical hedges that you mentioned. Thanks for the post. And thanks for reminding us that the gift we have in Jesus Christ is far superior than any other gift. Praise God!

    • Jason,

      Praise the Lord!

      I think you have accurately ascertained the purpose of my article :)… which wasn’t so much to “prove” cessationism, but rather to point out that many people who speak in tongues today do so in direct disobedience to clear and explicit commands of Scripture, and for the glory and honor of our God should be encouraged to stop disobeying Him.


  • J. Gary Ellison

    Again, I thank you for dealing with these important issues in the life of the church.

    Point 4 is well taken. I’m not sure how this point could be missed.

    Point 5 is based on a widespread misconception as to the nature of tongues. Many speak of “messages in tongues.” Yet, I find no biblical warrant for this phrase. You state that “All tongues’ spoken messages must be obeyed.” The words “messages” and “obeyed” clearly imply that tongues are a message from God to be obeyed. Yet, Paul clearly says that “one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God” (1 Co. 14:2 ESV). This is speech directed from man to God. It is prayer (14:14-15), thanksgiving (14:16-17), not instruction for others (14:19). Tongues may also be worship (Acts 2:11; 10:46), but in each case it is directed to God, not man. The one speaking in tongues is addressing prayer to God, and the interpretation should reflect prayer, thanksgiving, or worship of God. This contrasts the purpose of tongues with that of prophesy: “On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation” (1 Co. 14:3 ESV).

    This brings up another issue. When prophecy is given, it is to be evaluated. “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said” (1 Co. 14:29 ESV). “… let the others pass judgment” (1 Co. 14:29 NAU). “…the others should evaluate what is said” (1 Co. 14:29 NET). It may be inspired by the Holy Spirit, but it is not infallible. It is not Scripture. It must be evaluated by Scripture. This might not fit with our clearcut categories, but we must adjust our thinking to what Scripture actually says and not what we would like it to say. While the Scripture is inerrant, prophetic utterances in the church may not be. This is seen in the book of Acts where Agabus predicted that “the Jews at Jerusalem will bind” Paul, but “the tribune came up and arrested him and ordered him to be bound with two chains” (Acts 21:33 ESV). Apparently the Romans, not the Jews, bound Paul.

    Point 6 is rather confusing because you state that the person speaking in tongues must also pray. According to Paul’s definition, the one who speaks in tongues IS praying: “one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God” (1 Co. 14:2 ESV).

    It is from this point in your article that things begin to get very confused. Your underlying assumption is that the gift of tongues was for the purpose of (first century) evangelism, an authenticating sign for unbelievers. Yet Paul said (sarcastically) that it was a sign for unbelievers that tongues speakers are crazy when the all speak in tongues at the same time. Paul clearly indicates that tongues were not generally “human languages that people understood”: “no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit” (1 Co. 14:2 ESV).

    You have reduced the function and purpose of tongues to first century evangelism, “so that everyone could hear quickly”, yet there is no proof that it was ever used for evangelism. It functions

    (1) as a sign so that, as you state, “tongues verified even to perplexed Peter” that the Gentiles had received the same gift as the 120 on the Day of Pentecost.

    (2) as a means of building up one’s faith in private prayer, i.e. edification (1 Co. 14:4; Jude 20).

    (3) as a means of building up the church when it is interpreted (1 Co. 14:5).

    Considering your “three normal arguments”, I agree that 1 Co. 13:1 and Romans 8:26 cannot be used to prove that tongues are not human languages. I don’t follow your argument in point c. The problem is that you assume that you have proved that tongues are normal languages, and you have not. The onus is on you to prove that tongues are normal languages. In any case, from Scripture we can neither prove that tongues are ALWAYS a human language nor that they are ALWAYS a non human language. Sometimes they were a human language (Acts 2) and sometimes they were not (1 Corinthians 14:2).

    I sometimes get the impression that cessationists would prefer that these passages not be in the Scriptures, forgetting that all Scripture is profitable for doctrine… They are always trying to explain away what the Holy Spirit inspired for our instruction.

    I must agree with you strongly in your last paragraph, and I will add to it. Spiritual gifts are not a sign of maturity. Fruit is. The reception of a gift in no way indicates our maturity. Spiritual gifts say nothing about us; they only tells us something about the Giver. Fruit, on the other hand, points to our spiritual maturity. This is why there are many cessationist Christians who are more spiritually mature than non-cessationist Christians. It is our responsibility to grow in grace, and to add to our faith, virtue, knowledge, godliness, etc. (2 Peter 1:5-7). But the Holy Spirit distributes gifts according to His sovereign will (1 Co. 12:11), though we are to earnestly desire spiritual gifts (1 Co. 12:31; 14:1).

    • J.G.E.,

      Thanks again for your comments, I appreciate the sharpening 🙂

      If I’m not misunderstanding you, you maintain that tongues are directed toward God not man (agreed), can be real languages (agreed), but also can be a private prayer language (disagree, I’ll explain), and must always be evaluated (agree). I’ll try to hit all these issues 🙂

      1. You maintain that tongues function “as a means of building up one’s faith in private prayer”. It’s hard for me to see how a gift of the Holy Spirit can be private, for the edification of self. This goes against the purpose of the gifts, as I mention in point 4 and at the end of point 6. You cite Jude 20 and 1 Cor 14:4. Jude 20 does not mention tongues, I’ll address 1 Cor 14:4 in a moment.

      2. I agree that tongues were directed toward God, and I would add, directed toward God as a sign to unbelievers (1 Cor. 14:21-22). Where I would differ is that I believe that even though tongues are directed toward God, they and their translation must be believed and obeyed because the Spirit said them. For example, John 17 is a prayer prayed by Christ to His Father, and though it is not directed at me, it’s message reveals my God to me, and being inspired by Him, I am obligated to believe and obey it. I have a very hard time with you saying “It may be inspired by the Holy Spirit, but it is not infallible.” How can God say something fallible? If someone says in tongues and is translated, “God, you are wonderful”, that is revelation about my God, not revealed in Scripture, that I must believe. It will affect my worship, my prayer, etc. If God said it, I must believe and obey, if man said it, I’m not obligated. Thus the importance of knowing whether God said it or not.

      3. As I commented in another place, I totally agree with the importance of evaluating everything according to the Bible. What’s interesting is that you cite 1 Cor. 14:29 as a proof that tongues must be evaluated. However, the verse is speaking of prophesy. My question is: if a prophet gave a prophesy that was 90% accurate, what does the Bible call him? (Cf. Dt. 18:20). In other words, if a prophet says, “thus saith the Lord” and then 90% comes true, we don’t say he’s a biblical prophet. By the way, Agabus’ prophecy was 100% true because the Jews were responsible for Paul’s being bound, they incited the arrest. The Bible says the exact same thing about Jesus’ crucifixion. God accuses the Jews for crucifying Jesus, though they did it with Roman hands. See this article for more detail:

      4. Perhaps our biggest difference in understanding is how to take 1 Corinthians 14:2-4.

      But before I start, I will take a moment to remind us that we are brothers in Christ, united by a common understanding of the Gospel, so our differences are in fact minor :), and I’m encouraged greatly by that!

      You seem to argue that 1 Corinthians 14:2-4 can define the use of tongues outside the church. This is odd to me, because the context of the passage is how to use tongues in the church.

      Furthermore, if 1 Corinthians 14:2 means that no one understands tongues, not even outside the church, then 1 Cor. 14:2 would not complement Acts 2 as you claim, but contradict it. Paul says in 1 Cor. 14:2 that NO ONE understand tongues. He doesn’t say sometimes it’s understood, sometimes not, as you say, he in fact says: “For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him”.

      We are left with two options. 1) Paul didn’t understand tongues and didn’t realize that people DID in fact understand tongues in Acts 2. 2) Paul’s point is that no one understands tongues inside the church unless they are translated, because tongues existed as a sign, prophesied in the OT, to be a sign to unbelievers outside the church (1 Cor. 14:21-22).

      If you are interested in diving deeper, I would also recommend Nate’s two articles here: and

      Thanks again for your input,
      Lord bless and thank you for all your missionary work,

  • Heather

    I know this is late, and little out of place (sorry), but I just watched your testimony that was posted on your first post here on thecripplegate. I was so touched, convicted, and encouraged beyond words. I just wanted to say thank you to you and your wife for your testimony of faithfully serving the Lord, in love and joy, no matter what opposition came your way. Thank you, also, for so joyfully proclaiming God’s Word – may the Lord bless both of you and your work in the Spanish ministry He has placed you guys in. I’ll be praying for both of you. Oh, may He be glorified! 🙂

  • Hi Josiah

    As a charismatic who wanted to read this with an open mind and allow myself to be challenged, this hasn’t changed my view at all, for two key reasons:

    (1) There isn’t a single reason given here why I should believe that the gift of tongues has ceased (only that SOME churches would appear, according to your interpretation, to practice them in an unbiblical manner…which is something I’d fully agree with you on). I can’t see why I should stop praying in tongues as a result of what you’ve written.
    (2) There’s clear misrepresentation of the charismatic position, which makes it easy for a tongues speaker to ignore the rest of your argument. For example, saying ‘all tongues spoken messages must be obeyed’ because it’s from the Holy Spirit is in direct contradiction to 1 Corinthians 14:2 (tongues being a prayer language from man to God).

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