In 2003 I went to a meeting organized by a well-known local evangelist/’healer.’ At the time I had only been saved around a year and didn’t really know what to expect. As a former Catholic such meetings were foreign to me. (Although Rome does have some charismatic priests/healers,’ I had never met any.) Upon arrival, there was a good 100-strong-crowd present. The usual trestle tables were erected, selling books, tracts and videos.
We took our seats, sung a couple of great hymns, with a very good one called Have You Met The Man From Galilee, although the key was too high for me.
Before the main speaker of the evening was introduced, one of his colleagues, an elderly gentleman began by telling us how his mother-in-law, (who was 85-years-old, and after 50 years of prayer) had finally received Jesus as her own Saviour. Naturally, we applauded this happy ending to what must have felt like a lifetime of prayer, finally being answered.
As people were still clapping and shouting “amen, amen” the elderly man in the pulpit began speaking in some strange ‘language.’ At the time I remember thinking to myself, how he might have been speaking in Hebrew? Of course, later on, I realized that he had in fact been ‘speaking in tongues,’ with others around me also joining in. However, with no interpreter on hand to interpret for me and the others, as to what these people were all saying, this group had already violated at least two areas of Scripture when dealing with the subject of speaking in tongues in a local meeting (1 Cor. 14:23.)
Throughout the evening, I witnessed at first-hand people rolling around on the floor, ‘repeat healings;’ one woman crying as someone tried to ‘exorcise her demon;’ another lady being ‘healed’ of some illness, to later being found outside the building chewing gum, with another ‘healed’ victim puffing away on her cigarette.
One lady told those present how she’d finally been ‘healed’ after visiting this ‘healer’ for over twenty years of arachnophobia. I came away with mixed feelings about what I’d seen.
Two weeks later I invited myself along to this ‘healers’ house-church meeting. In total there were about seven of us there. As the meeting commenced I found myself feeling even more unsure about them and their doctrine.
I recall one ‘female pastor’ sitting there and when I asked her how she justified her ‘clerical position,’ she and the others became rather irritated with me. I told this ‘female pastor’ that it wasn’t Biblical and showed her the verses (1 Timothy 2:12-15.) I got a mute and slightly wry response.
As the service continued, we all prayed aloud for things of importance to us. During this time more than one person ‘spoke in tongues,’ and again with no interpreter. I gently pressed a man to my right, as to why he did this and did he understand what he was saying. He told me he had “no idea what he was saying” but seemed to enjoy it, nonetheless.
As the meeting came to a close, we had tea and biscuits and so I found myself being able to talk to the man in question, whose house I had attended. In brief, he tried to convince me that one mustn’t allow doctrine to get in the way of God’s supernatural miracles. He further went on to say that one of the main reasons why people doubt ‘signs and wonders’ today is because they are too ‘educated.’
His answers at that time didn’t convince me whatsoever and over a decade later, I still remain of the mindset that what he and others like him are actually offering people is simply the placebo factor.
What I had seen at this meeting wasn’t supernatural healings but the same people returning week in, week out for their latest ‘fix.’ Nobody was healed instantly and permanently that night (this is the only sign of an authentic Biblical healer.)
During this time I had an illness and yet I wasn’t healed by him or his associates. Was this, as some ‘healers’ proclaim because I had no faith? I think not. I had adequate faith (probably more than them) but with no healing forthcoming, my conclusion was that such men were not anointed and neither were others I’d investigated.
Only afterwards, and after much prayer and patience as I waited on the Lord, did He intervene and heal me. I thanked Him profusely at the time, and when I think about it now, I thank Him again!
As I have grown in grace since those early and impressionable years, I’ve come to realise that the majority of those that believe in the Jewish Apostolic sign gifts ‘still being for today’ are also into the prosperity gospel as well. For them, they believe and teach how God wants all His children to always be happy, wealthy and totally free from any illness or ailment. And yet has it never dawned on such advocates of this ‘humanist’ gospel that this is not in fact what God wants for His Church. For nobody in the New Testament enjoyed such things, so why should we in this apostate generation?
One of the most cruel and sadistic experiences that one will ever hear about or witness in person is when a severely sick person, after travelling land and sea to be ‘healed’ by a so-called ‘healer,’ is then blamed by such a person for ‘not having faith’ to be healed in the first place. By such a person’s presence at a place of ‘healing’ is clear evidence in and of itself that such a person had genuine faith to be healed. There were people in Scripture that were healed who didn’t even believe in Christ. The only ones that were never healed were those that refused to come to Jesus in the first place to be healed.
Barry Smith, the late Pentecostal preacher, had a daughter who suffered from schizophrenia and dreadful depression for many years. However, Barry, who believed very strongly in healings and tongues still being for today, wasn’t able to heal his sick daughter nor were any of his Pentecostal friends either. (Tragically his daughter committed suicide in 2000.)
Oral Roberts was once having a healing meeting when the tent he was in collapsed. What did he do? He called for ambulances to come and take away the sick. He didn’t heal anyone.
Recently I got talking to a Christian ‘healer’ in my town whilst I was distributing Gospel tracts (something he told me he never did), and I challenged him to go over and heal a blind busker, just 30 yards from where we stood to talk. He didn’t of course, and I knew, he knew, that I knew, he wasn’t going to but I was more than happy to have been proven wrong!
There are many more sad and ridiculous stories like this that I could recall, but as this article is solely on speaking in tongues, I don’t wish to deviate any further from the subject in hand.
Eventually, I found myself having to write to this local ‘healer’ but over the next six or so letters between us, I was unable to convince him from Scripture of his errors, and so we agreed to disagree, but not before he threatened me with legal action for what he called ‘libel.’ Once again he was in clear violation of Scripture (1 Cor. 6:1-8.)
Obviously, I had hit a nerve and therefore it was time to move on and leave him and his ‘ministry’ behind. After this saga, I prayed some time for him but never again would I hear from him.
The purpose of composing this article is not to question anyone’s salvation, regardless of their gender, nor is it to cause any undue pain or division to the true Christ of the Lord Jesus Christ. What I am primarily interested in, however, is to try and ascertain whether or not the Jewish Apostolic sign gifts of speaking in tongues is still for today, and was it/is it available to men and women.
What saith the Scripture?
In Acts 1-8, we read the following, concerning the Lord Jesus and His apostles:
“The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: And, being assembled together with them,commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that theHoly Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”
The above Scripture makes it abundantly clear how Jesus has just briefed His apostles and only His apostles about their imminent baptism of the Holy Ghost.
Later on in the first chapter (vs. 14) the women and the mother of the Lord Jesus are also listed among the 120 as being present in the upper room, where they ‘all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication.’ (This group of 120 consisted of the 11 apostles, the 70 disciples, found in Matt. 10 and Luke 10, and other saved people.)
During their time together, all they were doing were praying and rejoicing in the Lord. To suggest anything else is sheer speculation.
In Acts 2, the Jewish feast day of Pentecost has finally arrived. At first glance, the text appears to suggest how men and women are present, as they patiently await the baptism of the Holy Ghost, resulting in them all receiving the gift of speaking in known tongues. However, at a closer look, and once we carefully compare Scripture with Scripture, we soon discover that vss. 6, 13 state how only the apostles are publicly enjoying this new gift, and such a gift was clearly a known language for others to identify with (vss. 8-11.)
But should there be any doubt as to whom the recipients were when it came to receiving the gift of speaking in tongues, verse 14 is about as clear as is possible:
“But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day.”
So when we read Acts 1, where the Lord tells His apostles to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Ghost to arrive, and when He does arrive in Acts 2, we can clearly see how the gift of speaking in tongues, was only for His apostles.
Scripture further restricts the different types of tongues/languages (1 Cor. 12:10b; 28) to men only (1 Cor. 14:34, 35) and only selected men at that (1 Cor. 12:10.)
Also of interest is how the Amplified Bible states clearly on page 984, that only the apostles spoke in tongues, on the day of Pentecost. Therefore, to omit women being present when this mighty gift arrived, one must conclude that they were not to be the recipients of it. However, when Jesus fed the four thousand, for example, women are reported present to receive this blessing too (Matt. 15:38.) When the five thousand are fed, Scripture again reports their presence (Matt. 14:21.) So with no explicit record in the New Testament of any woman (Jewish or Gentile) ever speaking in tongues, I conclude this apostolic gift was only given to some men, for a certain period of time.
Acts 2:38 and the gift of the Holy Ghost (note the word is singular nor plural) means to be baptized into the body of Christ (Eph. 4:4), which would result in eternal life for all recipients.
This gift according to verse 39, is to “all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.”
Moving through Scripture, we read how Stephen and Philip (both male disciples) performed many miracles (Acts 6:8; 8:6.)
When Philip arrived in Samaria, he healed the whole town of many diseases (Acts 8:6-8.)
I wonder how many leaders there are today, in any denomination, anywhere in the world, since the first century, that has ever been able to replicate this wonderful gift in their communities, since the completion of the New Testament? None!
When the Samaritans received the Holy Ghost, there’s no mention of anybody speaking in tongues (Acts 8:12-17.) Also, this group, after they’d been baptised, had to wait for the apostles to come down to lay hands on them before the Holy Spirit fell on them. (The Catholic and Anglican church cite this passage in Scripture to argue for confirmation. However, this practice only occurred once in Acts, and when today’s apostate leaders lay their hands on individuals, nobody speaks in known tongues.)
The Gentile Ethiopian eunuch is baptised by Philip but doesn’t speak in tongues. Nobody is sent along to “confirm him” and off he goes into the sunset, rejoicing in his new birth. There is no evidence from Scripture that this man was a proselyte to Judaism, even though he read the Old Testament on route to Jerusalem to worship; for did not Moses’ father in law, Jethro, the priest of Midian also show respect to the God of Israel, by offering Him a sacrifice, before returning back to his pagan land and people (Ex. 18:12-27.)
When Paul was saved on the road to Damascus, and even after he was baptised, he didn’t speak in tongues, unlike the other apostles had done on the day of Pentecost. He was also called ‘brother’ before being baptized, proving how a sinner is saved by their faith in Christ, not by being baptized in water.
Cornelius, a Roman centurion and a proselyte to Judaism, therefore in the eyes of the Jews he was Jewish, received the gift of speaking in tongues, along with his whole believing household (Acts 10.)
Lydia is the first Gentile woman named in Scripture to be baptized in Acts, yet she doesn’t speak in tongues (Acts 16:15.)
The Gentile Philippian jailor and his all his household believed the gospel (this rules out infant baptism) and were then baptised. No tongues were reported here either.
In Acts 19:6, Paul comes across some of John the Baptist’s disciples and he asks them about receiving the Holy Ghost since they believed in Jesus as their Messiah. Their answer about not even knowing if there was a Holy Ghost makes we wonder if these were Jewish men at all? For how many orthodox Jews would fail to know about the Spirit of God? Might it be possible these men were additional Roman proselytes from Luke 3:14. Either way, these 12 men, whether Jewish or Gentile, all speak in tongues. (Please note that this passage of Scripture cannot be used to justify the ‘second blessing’ doctrine, in which Christians need an additional baptism to make them ‘more spiritual;’ these disciples were not Christians in the first place. All they knew was what John had told them, how Christ was soon to come and they needed to repent, be baptized and be ready for His soon arrival. Once Paul explained Jesus to them, then they received Him and were baptized physically and spiritually into the body of Christ.)
With the main accounts of Acts of the Apostles covered, when dealing with the gift of tongues, may I now focus on 1 Corinthians 12-14.
Paul spent considerable time with this carnal church trying to explain the correct use of the gift of tongues, whilst it was still in use.
“Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Ghost” (12:3.)
Some Corinthians, while using their gift of tongues, were saying “Jesus is cursed.”
These former pagans, who no doubt spoke in tongues before being saved (the Mormons, Red Indians, Catholics and Satanists also speak in tongues,) were rebuked by Paul.
His language, therefore at the end of the epistle makes sense, when he says:
“If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha” (16:22.)
But the main reason for quoting this verse, and there are additional ones to follow, is to highlight once again that men are spoken of here as the recipients and not women. The same masculine pronoun is found in Webster’s Bible, the Roman Catholic Douay-Rheims Bible and the Recovery Bible.
(I should say that the word man or men can refer to mankind in general, like when Hebrews says, “[He] should taste death for every man.” But in 1 Cor. 4:14, which in the context is about men/elders having to disciple and discipline the local assembly, something not applicable for women, than one can see that there are differences between the relevancy of pronouns: “I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you.”)
Yet when dealing with spiritual gifts, which Paul says differ per person, it cannot be therefore applicable for all, for that would contradict the diversities of gifts for different men.
Five verses later, Paul again has the following to say:
“But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal” (12:7.)
Now obviously he is not saying to every man without exception but every man without distinction, for as I’ve already demonstrated some men did not speak in tongues at all.
The following verse is self-explanatory:
“But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will” (12:11.)
In the 13th chapter, Paul has the following to say of himself:
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.”
Paul’s tongues of men, would be the different earthly languages, which he enjoyed for his worldwide travels; and his tongues of angels, may have been when he went to the third Heaven and communicated, like John the Apostle did, with his angelic hosts, something that doesn’t apply to anybody today (2 Cor. 12:2; Rev. 22:8-12.)
“Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.”
When we analyse these three gifts, Scripture helps us understand their current relevance:
- Prophecies (foretelling the future) shall fail (Heb. 1:2; Jude 3; Rev. 22 seem to affirm this with the close of Scripture.)
- Tongues shall cease (with later canonical writings silent about this gift, one can see its cessation.)
- Apostolic knowledge will vanish away (Acts 5:3 shows Peter had this gift, but several years later, Paul didn’t, Gal. 5:10.)
The 14th and final chapter in 1 Corinthians, which deals with the sign gifts:
“Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy” (vs. 1.)
Prophecy here, I believe, would be the sort we see from Zechariah (Luke 1:67) and Philip’s daughters (Acts 21:9), and this gift I believe is still available for today, when we think of some of the beautiful poetry and songwriters, throughout the church age (Jude 24-25.)
But the prophecy of foretelling the future, like that of Agabus (Acts 21:10-12) and Simeon (Luke 2:34, 35), during the inter-testimonial and transition period, going from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant isn’t sustained in Scripture as being applicable for today.
The next batch of verses are combined:
“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…He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church…I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.”
For Paul it was more important for the church to prophesy, i.e., give God the glory than compared to all speaking at once in tongues and cause mass confusion and even hysteria.
The next two verses again should be self-explanatory:
“Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret” (vs. 13.)
As I close this chapter and my article, Paul interestingly, when quoting Is. 28, changes the original verse to reads as follows:
“In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord” (14:21.)
Yet in Is. 28:11, it reads:
“For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people” (Is. 28:11.)
Clearly, Paul by this stage is teaching that the Holy Spirit had all along intended only men to enjoy this free linguistic gift, which supernaturally helped spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth (Rom. 10:18.)
And the word ‘men’ here, which is in italics in the AV, is also found in the NIV and the NASV.
“Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not.”
The first half of this verse was all about rebuking the unbelieving Jews, something long ago prophesied in the Old Testament (Jer. 5:21), who didn’t have a clue about what was going on, something similar to the tower of Babel when apostasy was also rife and endemic, not to mention different known languages forced on them by an angry God, for refusing to do what He told them to do; replenish the earth and spread out (Gen. 11:9.)
..but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe” (14:22.)
And the latter half has already been explained for the glory of God and the edifying of the entire assembly.
“If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret” (14:27.)
To keep decent and Godly honour in the church, Paul spelt it out how this apostolic gift was to be used.
“But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God” (14:28.)
This is God’s ideal pattern and makes perfect sense.
“Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law” (14:34.)
As I’ve already demonstrated how women were not the recipients of tongues, here Paul says that they mustn’t be heard speaking in tongues (or more likely trying to imitate what they heard some of their brothers doing) and neither were they to talk to one another or ask questions of their husbands when the church was is in motion (1 Tim. 2:11-15.)
“If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord” (14:37.)
For those that would challenge Paul’s apostolic authority and teaching here, he challenges them to acknowledge whether or not this is from the Lord.
“But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant” (14:38.)
Many today remain willfully ignorant.
“Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues. Let all things be done decently and in order” (14:39.)
When this gift was in existence, nobody was to forbid men from speaking in tongues, providing this wasn’t done in the company of unsaved people, for such folks would consider the church to be filled with mad people (1 Cor. 14:23); no more than 2 or 3 men at a time, and always with an interpreter. When this Biblical pattern is followed, Scripture would support it.
By now it should be quite obvious to the reader that I do not hold to the gift of speaking in tongues being applicable for today, nor do I believe in healings, prophecies or visions, when administered by third parties. I believe solely in Jesus Christ for my salvation and the Bible for everything else.
On top of Scripture not reporting women ever speaking in known languages, women are never spoken of as performing miracles, healing anybody, or even penning a book in Scripture.
So it is intriguing and even disturbing when one looks on in amazement at the many women in the ‘professing church’ today, claiming all sorts of ‘signs and wonders’ as having ‘Biblical support,’ when Scripture to the contrary is totally unable to collaborate any of this. One, therefore, has little option but to dismiss the whole modern day tongue movement on the grounds of gibberish and learned behaviour or in some cases even being demonic!
I recall a conversation I had with a Pentecostal lady, who liked to quote to me Romans 11:29, which reads:
“For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.”
She thought this was about speaking in tongues, even though the word tongues doesn’t appear anywhere in the chapter. In the context, Paul is writing about the nation of Israel being grafted back in again to God’s plan for salvation, during the Tribulation and therefore God’s love for Israel is forever, and without repentance (Jer. 31:35, 36.)
Another text which is sometimes cited is Romans 12:3-8. But again in this Scripture, the word tongues is never mentioned or even implied.
We must, however, be grateful for the input that former charismatics have been able to share on this subject. I have listened to at least two testimonies from such people, who claimed terrible peer pressure to ‘speak in tongues’ and make regular ‘prophecies.’
Regrettably, too many people make the Bible match their feelings when in reality they should be using the Bible to test their feelings and experiences.
I wish to finish my article, with Isaiah’s prophetic words on this whole tongues/charismatic movement, and how best to avoid it, with three cross-references from the NT:
“But the word of the LORD was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward [John 18:6], and be broken [Matt. 21:44], and snared [Rom. 11:9], and taken [2 Tim. 2:16])” (Is. 28:13.)
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