Speaking In Tongues

by David Padfield

Among the miraculous gifts given to the apostles was the ability to speak in languages they had never studied. Just prior to His ascension back into heaven, Jesus told the eleven apostles (for Judas had already killed himself) that various signs would follow them in their ministry. The apostles were to cast out demons, speak in tongues, have the ability to take up serpents and drink deadly poisons without harm and lay their hands on the sick in order to instantly cure them (Mark 16:17-18).

On the first Pentecost after the death of Christ the apostles were together in an upper room in the city of Jerusalem. Luke tells us that on this Lord's day morning that "suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance." (Acts 2:2-4).

On that day of Pentecost there "were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven" (Acts 2:5). These men were amazed and "confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language" (Acts 2:6). These men questioned the events of the day by asking, "how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born?" (Acts 2:8). On this monumental day the apostle Peter explained that this outpouring of the Holy Spirit was a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy (Acts 2:16-21; cf. Joel 2:28-32).

People all over this country claim that they have the same ability to "speak in tongues" as the apostles did in the second chapter of Acts—I kindly submit unto you that all such people have been deceived into believing a lie. There is not a man or woman on the face of the earth today who can speak in tongues like the apostles did!

When the apostles "spoke in tongues" they spoke in an intelligible language-one in which other people could understand. The apostles did not speak in the gibberish and nonsense that you find in Pentecostal and charismatic groups today. During the past twenty years I have visited dozens of Pentecostal assemblies and observed what they called "speaking in tongues." There has not been a single occasion where their "tongue speaking" even remotely resembled the actions of the first century church.

Sometimes modern day "tongue speakers" claim that they "just can't control it." They claim they have no power to limit their "tongue speaking." However, Paul told the church at Corinth that "the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets" (1 Cor. 14:32). So, if Pentecostal preachers today can't control their "spirit," they obviously have a different source of their "tongue speaking" than the apostles did!

In Pentecostal assemblies today you will often see large numbers of people "speaking in tongues" at the same time. Even if they really had the ability to speak in tongues (which they don't) this mass confusion is in direct violation of Paul's command that "if anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn" (1 Cor. 14:27). In the New Testament church, when men genuinely had miraculous powers, those who spoke in tongues had to speak one at a time and the church was limited to two, or at the most three, such demonstrations during an entire assembly.

The miraculous gifts of the first century church were to be limited in duration. Paul told the Corinthians that "when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away" (1 Cor. 13:10). The "perfect" in this passage is obviously the completed revelation of the New Testament, the "perfect law of liberty" (James 1:25). When the completed revelation of the New Testament was given the spiritual gifts (the "in part") were to cease.

I have no animosity towards people who attend Pentecostal churches—I simply feel sorry for them. I realize that they have been duped into believing a lie. These people might be honest and sincere, but they are sincerely wrong.

What is called "speaking in tongues" today requires the complete surrender of rational thought to emotionalism. Christians are to be ruled by "the word of God which lives and abides forever" (1 Peter 1:23), not their emotions. Over nineteen hundred years ago John warned Christians to "not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1).