Does the Bible Teach Speaking in Tongues?
By Radio Pastor Perry F. Rockwood
Published by The Peoples Gospel Hour
1. Mark 16 and Acts
This Bible study on the subject of tongues is one that will bring much profit to the individual person as well as help unify the body of believers. In the light of the special attention being given these days of the Holy Spirit in the church and in the world, a clear understanding of the plain teaching of the Word of God alone will enable us to properly evaluate existing trends.
The Greek word translated “tongues” is the word glossa and it is found about fifty times in the New Testament. Sixteen times it refers to the organ, the human tongue. Once, in Acts 2:3, it is used of “cloven tongues like as of fire.” All other times it means known languages.
TONGUES WERE GIVEN AS A SIGN IN THE EARLY CHURCH. Let us hear the words of our Lord as recorded in Mark 16:15-18: “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. 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.”
The word “sign” means “a miracle intended as a proof of something else” (Webster). There are few believers today, if any, who claim to have all of these five spiritual gifts. Others claim to have some of them, especially the gift of speaking with tongues.
I want you to notice that Christ was speaking to His eleven disciples here in Mark and therefore the signs were promised to men only and not to the women. The only ones who ever spoke in tongues in the New Testament were men and we shall see that the women are instructed definitely never to speak in tongues.
Our Lord promised that “signs shall follow them that believe” and in the days that followed Pentecost we know that signs did follow the believers. But we shall see that such signs are not required today in order to manifest the power and reality of God’s Word among men.
THE PURPOSE OF TONGUES AS A SIGN IN THE EARLY CHURCH. In 1 Corinthians 1:22 Paul said: “For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom.” The primary purpose of signs was to confirm the Word of God and in particular, the Gospel message. The infant church did not possess the completed Scriptures as we do today. They did not have access to the Old Testament like we do and the New Testament was not yet written. We have both Testaments and the Author of them, the Holy Spirit of God. If we do our part – “search the scriptures,” “study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth.” – and if we seek to live by the Word and to obey it, we can know assuredly, without miracles and signs, that the Bible is indeed the Word of God.
This teaching is clearly set forth in John 20:30-31: “And many other SIGNS truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: but THESE ARE WRITTEN THAT YE MIGHT BELIEVE that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through His name.”
When we turn to the Acts of the Apostles we find the word “tongue” used for the first time in 1:19: “And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, the field of blood.” This word ‘tongue’ certainly means a definite, understandable language of Jerusalem.
In Acts 2:1-11 we have the key scripture on “tongues” and certainly in no wise can we say that tongues means anything but languages.
Let us notice the persons who were present in the house where they were sitting. In Acts 1:26 we have the 12 apostles mentioned and without a doubt they were there. Acts 1:15,16 mentions one hundred and twenty “men and brethren”. They might possibly have been present although it is doubtful if 120 could be in the house unless they were in different rooms. But in any event, only men were present and only men spoke in the languages that are here mentioned. There is no place in the Bible where women ever spoke in tongues and, indeed, women are forbidden in 1 Corinthians 14 to speak in tongues.
Here in Acts 2 we are told: “every man heard them speak in his own language” (vs. 6). Certainly the “other tongues” must mean “other languages.” Sixteen different nationalities are named as hearing in their own languages the wonderful works of God. Notice it definitely states: “How hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born” (vs. 8). This was not an unknown tongue or even an unknown language, for the people could hear the message from God in their own language so that they could carry the message home with them in order to share in there with others. This was no ‘spiritual language’ or ‘heavenly language’ but the language of the peoples who were there to hear the Word of God.
It is important to notice here at Pentecost that this was the entrance of the Holy Spirit into God’s people in fulfillment of Christ’s promise to send the Comforter. This was a once-for-all experience. This was like Christ’s coming into this world by being born in a manger through Mary and the Holy Spirit. We do not pray for another incarnation, for Christ came but once to do His Father’s will. We do not pray for another Pentecost for it was an historical experience that is not to be repeated.
The next important use of the word ‘tongues’ in Acts is found in chapter 10:44-47: “While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues (languages) and magnify God. Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?”
Here we have Cornelius, his kinsmen, and near friends (vs. 24) gathered together. The purpose of these Gentiles speaking in other languages was to further convince Peter and the other Jews that the new birth baptism of the Holy Spirit was for Gentile as well as Jewish believers. “God is no respecter of persons”. The “tongues” spoken by these Gentile believers were languages because Peter and the other Jew present “heard them speak…and magnify God.” Peter explains this in Acts 11:15: “And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning (Pentecost).”
In Acts 19:1-20 we have a record of the opposition and difficulties Paul had to meet at Ephesus. Here our Lord confirmed Paul’s preaching with “special miracles” and signs and wonders and judgments, using the tongues-sign. Here were about twelve men (vs. 1-7) who spake in other languages so there were no women speaking in tongues in this instance.
These twelve men knew only of John’s preaching and baptism and were ignorant of the baptism of the Holy Spirit as had already occurred at Pentecost. So God confirmed to them the same experience as He did to those at Pentecost and as He did at Cornelius’ house. There were many languages found in Ephesus so the speaking in other languages confirmed Paul’s preaching.
As far as the Book of Acts is concerned, “tongues” refers to languages understood by those present at the time. There were no interpreters. But notice that tongues are mentioned only in reference to the three groups mentioned above. (1) Acts 2, Jewish believers. (2) Acts 10, Gentile believers. (3) Acts 19, John the Baptist’s disciples. Now altogether at least sixteen groups are mentioned in Acts but tongues is spoken of only in relation to three groups. The Book of Acts relates the conversion or spiritual experience of fourteen individual persons but not one of these is said to have spoken with tongues. If tongues were a necessary part of salvation or an indication of the baptism of the Holy Spirit then certainly the Word of God would declare tongues to be a universal necessity in such great spiritual experiences.
It is so hard today to get people to search the Scriptures and to follow the Scriptures. So many want to go by the experiences of others. We cannot build our spiritual lives upon experiences. We must build upon the one true foundation which is the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no teaching in the Book of Acts to indicate that believers today should have an experience of speaking with tongues.
2. 1 Corinthians 12
Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians was written to correct certain errors that crept into the church at Corinth. This local assembly was carnal and immature. As spiritual babes, they were unable to receive the “meat” of the Word and so were fed on “milk.” Paul clearly condemns their carnal practices and childish sectarianism. He had not set all disorders in the church aright, but he dealt with the things of supreme importance. In Chapter 11:34 he said: “And the rest will I set in order when I come.”
Now chapters 12, 13 and 14 all deal with the tongues confusion that brought disrepute to the church. I believe God will bless our study of these three chapters.
Let us read Paul’s words to the believers in Corinth as found in Chapter 21: “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant (not knowing, unintelligent)”. These believers were Gentiles led away by “dumb idols” (voiceless gods), and they were seeking to carry over into their Christian faith some of the hyper-emotional experiences of their Gentile days.
Verse 2 shows the extremes to which the tongues disorder had brought them: “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.” Their most common expression was “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,” while they rejected His Lordship and authority. The Bible teaches not only “Jesus” but the “Lord Jesus” or the “Lord Jesus Christ.” It should also be noticed that the entire Trinity, the three persons of the Godhead, are mentioned in relation to the giving and using of spiritual gifts. In verse 4 we have the Holy Spirit. In verse 5 we have the Lord Jesus Christ. In verse 6 we have God the Father.
“Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit” (vs. 4). The Holy Spirit manifests Himself in different ways throughout the church. We do not all have the same gifts, therefore it is not necessary for all to manifest the same gifts. We have been chided at times by Christians who believe that if we do not speak in tongues we do not have the power of the Holy Spirit upon our lives. Many of these people are well-meaning and sincere. But in testing a work of the Spirit, sincerity is not the standard of genuineness. Nor is experience the final judge of reality. Every experience and every claim must be able to stand the scrutiny of the Word of God. The Bible teaches the “diversities” of gifts.
“And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord” (vs. 5). The administrations refer to the proper use of these gifts as they are brought in subjection to the Lordship of Christ.
“And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all” (vs. 6). The operations refer to the power or the equipment for service. So then we have the gifts, the capacities for service; the administrations, the opportunities for service; and the operations, the power for service. All of these must be in subjection to God: to the Holy Spirit who bestows the gifts, to the Son who arranges the service, and to the Father who enables those who receive the gifts to exercise them for His glory.
“But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal” (vs. 7). Gifts of the Spirit are not given for show or to direct the attention of other people to ourselves or to bolster pride by believing we have something others do not have. Spiritual gifts are always given for the profit of others.
In verses 7-10 Paul sets forth these various gifts of the Holy Spirit. (1) The gift of wisdom. This was given especially to help believers to understand the plain teachings of the Bible. (2) The gift of knowledge. This had a direct bearing on God’s plan and will and was needed while the New Testament was still unwritten. (3) Works of faith. This is not saving faith; it is operational faith in the Christian life, such as was given to George Mueller, for example. (4) The gift of healing. God is able to heal the body according to His will. (5) The gift of miracles. Various signs and wonders through the working of the Holy Spirit. (6) The gift of prophecy enabling believers to understand God’s program for the ages. (7) The discerning of spirits to enable believers to distinguish between the workings of the Spirit of God and the spirits that come from the Devil. (8) The gift of tongues. The word for “tongues” literally means “the languages spoken by men.” (9) The interpretation of tongues.
Now although the betowment of tongues was one of the least of all the gifts, the Corinthian believers made it their first interest. Not only that, but they tested the spirituality of other believers by asking, “Do you speak in tongues?” If the answer was “No”, then they considered such believers as inferior Christians, lacking the Holy Spirit’s power upon their lives.
Verse 11 says: “But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.” We see here that “sign-gifts” are always given according to the will of the Holy Spirit and they were to be exercised humbly in serving God and in ministering to one’s fellowman.
Let us now notice that the speaking with different languages has nothing to do with the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Verse 13: “For by one Spirit are we ALL baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been ALL made to drink into one Spirit.” This verse clearly teaches that ALL believers are baptized by the Spirit. But we will see that the same Bible in this same chapter, teaches that ALL believers do not have the gift of tongues. Therefore it is not necessary for ALL believers to speak with tongues as the initial evidence of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.
Forty days after His resurrection, Christ ascended into Heaven and was glorified. Ten days later, in accordance with His promise in John 7:38,39, the Holy Spirit CAME and all believers there present were baptized into one body. We, likewise, are baptized by the Holy Spirit into that same body the moment we receive Christ as our own personal Saviour. At that time, the Holy Spirit comes into our lives to indwell us forever. This does not mean that the Holy Spirit has full possession of us all the time. We need a daily filling and are commanded in Ephesians 5:18 to: “…be filled (to keep on being filled) with the Spirit.” Oh, how we need such a filling and blessing and anointing in our day! But this has nothing to do with speaking other languages. It has everything to do with holy living and power for service.
Paul makes it clear in verses 29 and 30 that all believers were not expected to speak with tongues and all were not expected to interpret. “Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?” Obviously not.
What is the logical, simple answer to each of these questions? “Are all apostles?” No, of course all are not apostles! As a matter of fact there are no apostles today in the strict Bible sense of the Word. “Are all prophets?” The answer is surely, No. There are very few, if any, true Bible prophets today. “Are all teachers?” No, all are not teachers. But I do believe we need more teaching of the Bible in our nation today. “Are all workers of miracles?” No. “Do all have the gifts of healing?” No. “Do all speak with tongues?” The answer is still, No. “Do all interpret?” Again there is only one answer, No.
Lord Wolseley once said of Stonewall Jackson: “He inspired his soldiers with an unquestionable belief in him as their leader; they did not ask him where he was going, they were content to follow.” Fundamental believers maintain the same attitude towards the Word of God. We want to follow the plain teaching of the Bible rather than the teachings and commandments of men.
Paul concludes this 12th chapter of 1 Corinthians with these words in verse 31: “But covet earnestly the best gifts:” We want God’s best gifts. It is wrong to say we much receive God’s least before we receive His greatest. It is wrong to seek God’s least gift because it is not intended for all believers. The Bible teaches us to covet earnestly the best gifts.
It is scripturally wrong to give more attention to the Holy Spirit than to Christ. Jesus said in John 15:26: “He shall testify of me”; and in John 16:14: “He shall glorify me”; and in John 16:13: “He shall not speak of himself.” So the gifts and blessings of the Holy Spirit will always turn our attention to the glory and honour and praise of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Perhaps some of you are unbelievers who are looking for a sign or some special spiritual experience before you are willing to believe the Bible. There is only one way to be saved and that is to accept the clear teaching of God’s Word. Our blessed Lord Jesus said: “He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life” (John 5:24). Will you come today on the basis of God’s Word and receive Christ as your own personal Saviour?
3. 1 Corinthians 13
This chapter, usually referrred to as “The Love Chapter” is really “The Tongues Chapter”. It is found between the two chapters that deal primarily with tongues and has vital teaching on this subject.
Paul, after making clear that all believers do not speak with tongues, concluded 1 Corinthians 12 with these words: “Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way” (vss. 30-31).
Now chapter thirteen is a continuation of chapter twelve. It sets forth the preeminence of love in the believer’s life in relation to the gifts of the Spirit. The real test of all the gifts of the Holy Spirit is whether or not they promote love among believers. So Paul tells us clearly: “And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.” (Read carefully verses 2-7).
Not only does this chapter teach us that love must be preeminet in all gifts of the Spirit, but it also teaches that love and love alone will last forever. Verse 8: “Charity (love) 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.” Notice four things here: (1) Love never faileth. (2) Prophecies shall fail. (3) Tongues shall cease. (4) Knowledge shall vanish away.
In relation to prophecies and knowledge the same Greek verb is used and means “shall vanish away” or “shall be done away” or “to abolish.” The same word is used in verse 11: “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away (abolished, made void) childish things.” In maturity, that is spiritual maturity, we no longer need the things that pertain to childhood. As we have already seen in our last study, the speaking in tongues took place during the childish life of Corinthians believers and have no part in the life of spiritually mature believers.
In verse 9 we read: “For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.” This is the prophecy and the knowledge that was given before the completion of the New Testament scriptures. It has nothing to do with general knowledge that is attained from classrooms in schools and colleges. “But when that which is perfect is come (the completed revelation of the scriptures) then that which is in part shall be done away.” Both prophecy and knowledge are superseded by that which is perfect – the Holy Scriptures.
Verse 8 deals with the matter of tongues: “Whether there be tongues, they shall cease.” After the outbreak of the tongues heresy in the church at Corinth there is no further evidence in the Bible that tongues were a part of the church gifts. This can be shown by the following facts.
1. Paul did not refer once to tongues after writing his Epistle to the Corinthians.
2. Peter, James, John and Jude all wrote their epistles after the First Epistle to the Corinthians was written and not once do they refer to tongues. Not even in the last book, the Book of Revelation, are tongues mentioned.
3. While 1 Corinthians 13 tells us that prophecies, knowledge, and tongues fail or cease or vanish away, it also tells us that three other things abide – faith, hope and charity (love) (vs. 13). Some things cease. Some things abide.
But let us notice that even faith and hope will not abide forever. They will abide only until the rapture of the church for faith will give way to sight and hope will give way to realization.
Our Lord said to Thomas: “Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” The day is coming when faith will give place to sight and we shall see our blessed Lord as He is, and we shall be like Him. Faith will end at the Rapture of the church but it continues throughout this church age.
Hope will also end at the Rapture. Romans 8:24: “For what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?” Now we hope for Christ’s return. We long for the blessings that His return will bring. But when He does return we shall have the fact of His presence and hope will give way to realization.
But love is the greatest of all for it is eternal. It never vanishes. “Charity (love) never faileth” (verse 8 ) for love is as eternal as God.
4. Paul wrote to the mature Ephesians setting out God’s provision for the church. He listed in Chapter 4:11 the “gifts” for use in the ministry of the church and tongues are not mentioned: “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers.” Now notice the purpose for which these gifts were given. Verses 12-15: “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we be henceforth no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.”
Here Paul makes it clear that we are to speak the truth in love, not in tongues. That is what we, by the grace of God, are seeking to do through the ministry of The Peoples Gospel Hour. Pray for us. We have only one authority by which we can become mature believers and that authority is the Word of God.
Everything we have and everything God wants us to have is found in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is through the working and blessing of the Holy Spirit that we are brought in to the overflowing, abundant life and given power for service. He exalts Christ who is our all in all. By daily submission, consecration and obedience to the Holy Spirit, we can know the fulness of the Godhead in our lives. How wonderful! God grant us this blessing!
4. 1 Corinthians 14
The 14th chapter of Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians deal primarily with a tongues heresy that brought dishonour to God. This church at Corinth had all the earmarks of carnality, worldiness, and spiritual immaturity and was the only church where speaking in tongues was practiced.
The church at Corinth was a church of many problems: (1) It was characterized by divisions (1:11-13). (2) The believers were carnal and not spiritual (3:1-11). (3) They were baby Christians still feeding on the milk rather than on the meat of the Bible (3:2). (4) Some of them were puffed up and offended with Paul (4:18). (5) There was fornication among them, a man living in sin with his stepmother and the church defending him (ch. 5). (6) Believers went to law one against another (6:1-8). (7) Some ate meats offered to idols which caused others to stumble (ch. 8). (7) Some came to the Lord’s Supper drunk and there were other scandals connected with the Lord’s Supper (11:17-21).
In the light of the terrible spiritual condition of these believers at Corinth, it is not hard to believe why they were involved in a tongues heresy.
If we read this chapter carefully it teaches us not how to speak in tongues, but how not to speak in tongues. It encourages us to seek other gifts rather than the gift of tongues. It also teaches us that not ALL speak in tongues and therefore tongues cannot be the sign of the baptism of the Holy Spirit for “By one Spirit are we ALL baptized into one body” (1 Cor. 12:13).
Let us notice that the word unknown is not found in the origianl but has been placed in italics, by the translators. The word ‘tongue’ in the Bible means foreign language. At Pentecost the Spirit-filled disciples were given the gift of speaking in some sixteen different languages of sixteen different nationalities who were there present. These foreigners heard the disciples speak “in our own tongue wherein we were born.” The languages there spoken were not unknown tongues but foreign languages known and used by people and understood by them when spoken by the disciples at Pentecost.
If this gift is still for us today, then the important question comes to mind: Why do missionaries whose lives are dedicated to God have to spend years learning the language or languages of the people whom they serve?
In 1 Corinthians 14:1-5 Paul shows that speaking in a foreign language in the church was not edifying to the church but was directed only to God. Those who spoke in another language were actually selfish, “edifieth himself” (vs. 4). The gift believers should really seek after is the gift of prophecy which was being neglected in the Corinthian church. They sought primarily for the less important gift of tongues. In fact, they were judging one another’s spiritual state by asking, “Do you speak in tongues?” To them, this was the most important thing while to the Holy Spirit it was of the least importance.
We have heard people say, “Well, you have to seek the least gift before you receive the greatest gift.” But Paul clearly teaches that ALL do not speak in tongues and therefore all are not to seek the lesser gift. All believers, however, are to seek after the gift of prophecy, so that the church as a whole might be edified.
From verses 6-11 we have the plain teaching that any speaking we do in the church must be easy to be understood by all: “Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine? And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction (difference) in the sounds (notes), how shall it be known (by tune) what is piped or harped? For if the trumpet given an uncertain (indistinct) sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? For ye shall speak into the air. There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification (its own meaning). Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice (language), I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian (foreigner), and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me.”
Every language has a clear meaning that can be understood; so all speaking in the church should be clearly set forth by languages that can be understood. “Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying (upbuilding) of the church” (vs. 12). How selfish you are to seek the gift of speaking in other languages when such speaking will not be understood by the church and will not build up the church.
Then Paul goes on to point out that if someone does speak in a foreign language in the church there must be an interpreter (vs. 13). The Bible gives a definite order for speaking in foreign languages and if this order is not followed then it is not according to the Word of God.
Verse 27: “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.” Women are absolutely forbidden to speak in tongues and if they do so then they are acting contrary and in disobedience to the Bible – verses 34-35). Men were permitted to speak only one at a time and that with an interpreter to explain his message.
Verse 28: “But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.” You know as well as I do that tongues are spoken in some churches time and again without an interpreter. You also know that oftentimes several people are speaking at one time. God does not contradict His Word and therefore any practice that does not agree with the Bible cannot be of God.
Another evidence that Paul was speaking about ordinary foreign languages is found in verse 18: “I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all.” Paul had no gift of unknown tongues. When Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit first in Acts 9:17 there is no mention of speaking with tongues. Paul wrote fourteen of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament and there is never a mention of him speaking with tongues. Paul was an educated man and could speak in other languages, certainly in the Koine Greek as well as the Aramaic language. He was preaching over the entire Roman Empire and spoke more often in a foreign language than any other believer in Corinth. “Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue” (verse 19).
Verse 22: “Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe.”
Two different Greek words are used here for those who believe and those who believe not. For those who believe the word pisteuo is used which means full of confidence and trust. Those who believe not have the word apistos which means without confidence or doubters. This verse tells us then that tongues are for a sign, not to them who fully trust the Lord but to them who still doubt.
Thomas was such a doubter. Jesus said to Thomas in John 20:27 “…and be not faithless (apistos, a doubter) but believing.” Thomas was saved but he was not willing, at that time, to believe God’s Word and the testimony of the other disciples. Jesus said to him in effect that this is not the way to live. “Be not faithless” (be not a doubter). In John 20:29 we read: “Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”
This explanation helps us to understand why the tongues heresy was found in the Corinthian church and in no other. This was a baby church that believed not the plain teaching of the Bible. 1 Corinthians 14:20: “Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.” Don’t remain babies all your life. Paul has the same thought in mind in 1 Cor. 13:11: “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” One characteristic of childish believers is that they do not wish to live by the plain teaching of the Bible. They want, like Thomas, to see before they believe. We are to believe the Word of God without any other evidence if we are to mature in the Lord.
In verses 34-35 of chapter 14 we read that women are to keep silent in the church in relation to speaking with tongues. Wherever woman are found taking part in speaking with tongues we know it is not according to the Bible, therefore it is not of the Holy Spirit. Paul does not forbid the speaking with languages in the church. But it must be according to the guidelines of Scripture. It must be done decently and in order.
Verse 37: “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.” The Lord Jesus Christ is our all in all and we need to be taken up with Him. When we allow the Holy Spirit His rightful place in our lives, our hearts will be satisfied and we will not seek after other experiences. Let each of us today receive from the Lord by His Spirit what He has for us. “Blessed are they that have not see, and yet have believed” (John 20:29).