The Gift Of Tongues Reviewed

Q. Please help me on the issue of speaking in New Tongues. Mark 16: 17-18 says,

“And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”

In our churches we see people going out of their way speaking in tongues because they are told that they are spiritually immature if they do not speak in tongues and they have been using the above verse and Acts 2 as something that obligates them to speaking in tongues.

I actually don’t speak in tongues and I cannot fake them if there is nothing that allows me to do that. I’m a principled believer that doesn’t do what I’m not sure of. I saw several people people speaking this language that they cannot even know nor can they be known by any interpreter or outsider, claiming that God hears it. In some churches they even teach members how to speak in these funny tongues.

Please explain this issue of tongues before I get more confused or prejudiced or feel less of a believer because I don’t speak in tongues.

A. Technically, the people you refer to are not speaking in tongues, which is a supernatural ability to communicate in a language you haven’t learned. They’re expressing something called a prayer language which they say is not meant to be interpreted but is for God alone to understand. Some churches incorrectly teach that this prayer language is evidence that a believer has been baptized in the Holy Spirit. This is a practice that cannot be supported by Scripture.

There’s no Biblical requirement that all believers should speak in tongues. In 1 Cor. 12 where Paul explained the Spiritual Gifts, he said that the Holy Spirit gives different gifts to different people as He determines for the good of the body. Then he made a specific argument against all believers having the same gifts. And Mark 16 doesn’t say all believers will speak in tongues. It says that certain signs will accompany believers, tongues being one of them. If someone uses Mark 16 to say that everyone has to speak in tongues, then they have to agree that every believer also has to cast out demons, handle deadly snakes, drink poison and heal the sick.

Most scholars see Acts 2 as a special event where the Holy Spirit enabled the disciples to deliver the gospel message to the Jews gathered there from several different countries. It says the Holy Spirit “came upon” them visibly, like tongues of fire, indicating a special empowerment for that occasion. This visible sign does not normally accompany the gift of tongues. And notice that every person in the crowd heard and understood the message in their own language. This is not true of the so-called prayer language.

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