In Mark 16:17,18 Jesus gives us signs that would be common among believers in the infancy of His Church. Here Jesus says, "And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover."
Most Churches today are of the belief that such works of the Holy Spirit are not manifest in believers. However there are some, mainly Pentecostals that fervently maintain that at the very least every believer will speak in tongues. In fact many Pentecostals believe that the ecstatic display of speaking in tongues is the evidence that an individual has been saved.
As is the case with any issue spoken of in Scripture, it is necessary that we have a complete understanding of what Scripture actually says. After all Scripture is all-sufficient. The Apostle Paul verifies this truth for us in 2 Tim. 3:16,17, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." With this in mind let us see what Scripture says about the gift of speaking in tongues.
The first occurrence of tongues being spoken among believers happened on the day of Pentecost. This was one of the gifts that was given to those who received this outpouring of the Holy Spirit on that day.
So who received this gift? Was it all the disciples of Jesus? Or was it only some? Some have erroneously concluded that since Acts 2:1 begins, "When the day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place."; that this must be all of the disciples. However, we find that the final thought given in the previous verse (1:26) is that Matthias was included as one of the twelve Apostles. This proof that it is only the twelve Apostles who received this baptism of the Holy Spirit and it's gifts becomes clear when we arrive at Acts 2:14 where Luke tells us, "But Peter, standing up with the eleven,". Again we see those who were present among the believers were the Apostles.
A second question which is pivotal in our understanding of why the gift of tongues was needful is "What were these tongues?" This question is answered here in Acts 2:8, where those who heard these tongues uttered by the Apostles say, "and how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born?" Obviously these tongues were known languages of people of various nations. Luke even gives us a list of fifteen different regions and nations in Acts 2:9-11; further proof these utterances were languages and not some celestial language as Pentecostals maintain.
It is a given that the purpose in these tongues was to proclaim the saving message of the Gospel of Christ Jesus. That is too obvious to be misunderstood. You had people present who did not speak Hebrew, Greek or Aramaic, the three languages common in Judea. Without this working of the Holy Spirit then the Gospel could not have been proclaimed with success.
So the question that anyone who maintains that tongues are still spoken today must answer is this: "What purpose would this gift be to our generation?" After all, God would never give us a useless gift, would He? Consider that today we have the ability to proclaim the Gospel message in every language! We can do this without this manifestation. Today God's word is available in every known language and men and women have the means to learn every known language.
With this in mind let us look at what the Apostle Paul told the Church at Corinth about the gifts of prophecy, tongues and knowledge. In 1 Cor. 13:8, "Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away." Paul makes it clear these three specific gifts would end. They were temporary. Given to an infant Church that did not have the complete Scriptures of the New Testament, nor the ability to communicate them and their gift of salvation to the whole world as the Lord had commanded them in Mt. 28:19, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." These tongues were specifically given for this purpose.
When we continue this teaching in part two we will look at what the Pentecostals falsely believe about the "language of angels." Until next time, God bless and keep you. -David Miller