Speaking in tongues is an experience that is rapidly spreading throughout the world. Mention of the topic evokes heated debate, emotions, and critics from many liturgical groups. Yet, despite the criticism, the “Pentecostal” movement has been increasing exponentially. Several years ago, researchers found that there were over 500 million of these “Pentecostals” in the world, the movement is estimated to grow to over 1 billion by 2050. This beckons the question, “is speaking in tongues a ‘counterfeit’ to many, a ‘fake’ to the faint, or is it a ‘promise’ to all?”
Objectors of speaking in tongues rely predominately on a small selection of scripture. After reading over 30 published books/articles criticizing the subject, meeting with several denominations of theologians/pastors, and attending doctrinal university classes of a liturgical faith – the argument against tongues is consistently and solely based off of an interpretation of 1Cor 13:8.
1Cor 13:8 KJV 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.
An isolated focus of this text, reading “tongues, they shall cease,” has led many to believe that speaking in tongues is no longer available to New Testament believers. This view, known as Cessationism, submits that the entirety of the gifts and manifestation of the Holy Spirit has “ceased” since the era of the Apostles (speaking in tongues, prophecy, miracles of healing, etc). Thus, proponents of this view believe that any remaining spiritual manifestation, namely speaking in tongues, is either a falsification by the speaker or a demonic counterfeit.
Before discussing this viewpoint we need to establish the full context of the passage in question. Interestingly, the context will provide us with a specific time-frame for when tongues will in fact cease.
1Cor 13:8-10 KJV 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. (9) For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. (10) But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. […] (12) For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
The bible indicates that immediately after “perfection” comes, speaking in tongues will cease (and presumably other miraculous manifestations). Some have purposed that this “perfection” was the complete canonization of the Bible or the end of the lives of the apostles. However, the word translated “perfection” is the Greek word “teleios,” which is exclusively used in reference to only one event and specifically only one individual. This individual we will be able to see as face-to-face. A question raised by one scripture does not overturn answers given by another. Thus, it will be easy to distinguish what event will mark the authentic ceasing of tongues, when we see the other uses of this Greek term through the bible:
Mat 24:14-15 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end (=”teleios”) come. (15) When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet […]
The identical term is used in reference to the second coming of Christ which will precede the abomination of desolation, millennial reign, and the end of the World. Clearly, we have not reached this “teleios” (the “end”) yet! Consider yet another two biblical uses of the same root word:
1Cor 1:7-8 So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: (8) Who shall also confirm you unto the end(=”teleios”), that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Heb 9:11 But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect(=”teleios”) tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building;
Again, the word “teleios” is strictly referred to the second coming of Christ. Nearly unanimously the Christian community agrees that this event has not yet occurred (1Thess 4:16-17). Therefore, speaking in tongues has not yet ceased and is available to all believers still. Why then do some resist and deny the operation of the Holy Spirit today? The bible illustrates several other misguided groups similar to this:
Acts 2:4,13 GNB “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to talk in other languages, as the Spirit enabled them to speak. […] (13) But others made fun of the believers, saying, “These people are drunk!”
Acts 7:51 KJV Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.
Isaiah 28:11-12 KJV & 1Cor 14:21 KJV “For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people. To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear”
There is no indication from the scriptures that speaking in tongues has ceased. Any teaching to that effect is a post-biblical (Rev 22:18) creation/tradition of man (Col 2:8) and should then be considered false (Gal 1:8-9). Rather, quite to the contrary, the bible clearly teaches that the uniform initial evidence of receiving the Holy Spirit is speaking in tongues and it is available to all believers (until the “end” when Christ comes again and the church is raptured).
To some this seems “too miraculous” to be true, but considering the frequency in which the Spirit fell in the New Testament, it should be nothing foreign to God’s true church.
Acts 1:5, 1:13-15, 2:4 KJV For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. […] And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James. (14) These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.[…](15) (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty,) […] And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
Acts 8:14-17 KJV Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: (15) Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (16) (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) (17) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.
Acts 10:44-46 While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. (45) 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. (46) For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. […]
Acts 19:1-2, 6 […] Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples, (2) He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.[…] (6) And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.
Thousands received the Spirit in the bible and spoke in tongues. Every time someone receives the Holy Spirit for the first time there will be an identifiable sound (John 3:5-8) and it will be speaking in tongues. It functions as a sign to the unbeliever of God miraculous power (1Co 14:22), and serves as an evidence to the recipient that they have indeed been born of the Spirit (John 3:8). Today, you are encouraged to receive (Rom 8:9) and promised (below) the same miraculous experience!
Acts 2:38-39 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. (39) For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.
Mark 16:16-17 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. (17) And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues
Finally, I have recently heard stipulated by many atheists (and some Cessationists) that speaking in tongues could be of another origin. Specifically that the experience is:
- “Nonsensical gibberish” produced by the speaker,
- Due to mental health disorders, or perhaps
- Due to either externally or internally induced hypnosis.
“Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania took brain images of five women while they spoke in tongues and found that their frontal lobes — the thinking, willful part of the brain through which people control what they do — were relatively quiet, as were the language centers [(Proves: it is not controlled by the speaker)]. The regions involved in maintaining self-consciousness were active [(Proves: it is not hypnosis)]. The women were not in blind trances, and it was ‘unclear’ which region was driving the behavior.”
“Contrary to what may be a common perception, studies suggest that people who speak in tongues rarely suffer from mental problems. A recent study of nearly 1,000 evangelical Christians in England found that those who engaged in the practice were more emotionally stable than those who did not. [(Proves: it is not due to mental health problems)]“
“The amazing thing was how the images supported people’s interpretation of what was happening,” said Dr. Andrew B. Newberg, leader of the study team, which included Donna Morgan, Nancy Wintering and Mark Waldman. “The way they describe it, and what they believe, is that God is talking through them,” he said.
After Peter and the other 119 people (on the Day of Pentecost) spoke in tongues, they were accused of being drunk by a crowd of 3,000 observers. To which he replied:
Acts 2:15-39 KJV For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. (16) But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; (17) And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: […] (33) and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. […] (37) Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? (38) Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. (39) For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.
Unequivocally, there is not one scripture in the bible that supports the notion that the Holy Spirit has ceased it’s operation in this era. Speaking in tongues is real, millions are receiving it around the world today, and it is for you. You may have felt the Spirit move “around” you before, but there is nothing more powerful than when God moves “into” you! Uniformly, the initial evidence of receiving the Spirit always manifests as speaking in tongues and the same is still true today. After you receive the Spirit you can also experience the power (Acts 1:8), gifts (1Cor 12:8-10), and fruit (Gal 5:22-23) that it brings in your life. So in conclusion, speaking in tongues is not a “counterfeit” received by many nor a “fake” for the faint, but rather a scriptural “promise” to all (John 7:37-39, Acts 2:38-39)!
I leave you with the same question that Paul (1Cor 14:18) asked the disciples in Acts:
Acts 19:2 KJV Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? […]
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