Saturday, May 05, 2007

Testimony on tongues -- direct Scripture references

The testimony of Scripture passages concerning speaking in tongues.

1. Mark 16:17,18 -- "And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover." This is the first mention of tongues in the New Testament, and the only mention in the Gospels. It is an important text. While many believe it proves their point, it actually proves the opposite. Speaking in tongues is one of many signs that follow "them that believe" in a general way. It is impossible to interpret Mark as meaning that every believer would exhibit every sign, therefore it does not follow that every believer will speak in tongues.

2. Acts 2:3, 4, 6, 8, 11 -- This is the first passage of a manifestation of tongues, on the day of Pentecost. Numerous persons from about 15 different regions or peoples, who were able to converse in a common language (cf. 2:7, 12: "saying one to another"), each heard the 120 speaking in the language of their nativity. There is no record that the others that believe later in the day also speak in tongues.

3. Acts 10:46 -- This is the second record of a manifestation of tongues, and it is the one which possesses the most similarities to the day of Pentecost. It is not clear in chapter 10 whether the disciples understood each in their own language, as on Pentecost, or if they all just understood the language they heard them speak. But Peter says this was "as on us at the beginning." (Acts 11:15)

4. Acts 19:6 - The third manifestation of tongues recorded in Acts. The Holy Spirit came on these disciples at Ephesus, and they spoke in tongues. It should be a matter of some consideration that Luke by inspiration penned a record covering over 30 years of history of the early church, and recorded only three instances of speaking in tongues. This is very much less emphasis on it than found in the vast majority of churches that hold the practice.

5. I Corinthians chapters 12-14 -- This section is the only place outside the book of Acts that tongues is mentioned, and the only doctrinal dissertation that we have on the subject. There appears to be at least one difference as Paul deals with the subject here. The manifestation of tongues as practiced by the Corinthians required an interpreter. This has caused some to distinguish between the tongues of Acts 2 and I Cor. 12-14. The tongues of I Corinthians are:
A. a gift (12:4) or manifestation (12:7) of the Spirit for the edification of the church
B. not distributed to all (12:28-30)
C. only a noise without love (13:1)
D. temporary (13:8)
E. only self-edifying when lacking interpretation (14:1-20)
F. a sign to unbelievers (14:21,22)
G. not to be overdone and not to be done without an interpreter (14:27)
H. not for women in the church (14:34)
I. a practice of extreme importance to the divided carnal Corinthian church (1:11; 3:1)

6. I Corinthians 14:18, 19 -- Paul frequently spoke in tongues, and yet reckoned it futile if there be no understanding.

7. I Corinthians 14:21 -- Paul connects the thought in Isaiah's prophecy (28:11, 12) with the idea that tongues is a sign for unbelievers.

The obvious conclusion is that tongues had an important place as a sign gift in the early church, but that there is MUCH MORE that transpires with tongues being either absent and/or unmentioned than transpires with tongues being present and/or mentioned. Speaking in tongues is mentioned once prophetically in the New Testament,1 thrice historically, and once doctrinally.2 That lack of emphasis, compared to the major emphasis by some, needs to sink down into the mind of the New Testament reader. The absence of tongues in the experience of many believers speaks to us as much as its presence in the experience of others. Anyone who thinks he/she has some kind of corner on the Christian market because of speaking in tongues DOES NOT meet the New Testament standard.

1. Paul also refers to the Old Testament passage of Isaiah 28:11,12
2. That is, a doctrinal exposition in one section of one book of the Bible.

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