Friday, September 30, 2011

speaking in tongues

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There is much concern in my mind about the issue of speaking in tongues. Without a doubt this is the most controversial of all the spiritual gifts of today. Many positions are held by all sides, some are pro, con, and even middle ground on this subject. Yet I find the idea of tongues speaking today in our culture is confused and does not resemble that spoken about in Scripture, that which was to eventually cease.

The point is Christians need to know where to stand on such issues. We are not trying to be unloving or critical when we address this misunderstood doctrine. We have to speak the truth and we must do it in love. We cannot just say that tongues does not exist because we feel that way or because the congregation we attend does not believe that way. Our conclusion must be one that is based upon what the Scriptures teach. The Bible has to be our final authority. We are going to look at three area of tongues. What is tongues? Their purpose and finally if they are still relevant for today.

There are two main definitions that apply to the use of the term “tongues” when it appears in Scripture. Tongues is defined as normal human language. Then when tongues is applied as a gift of the Holy Spirit, it is the ability to speak a foreign language one had never learned before. The word tongues comes from the Greek word glossa which basically means languages or as it is most commonly translated as tongues. “The word glossa is used in the Greek O.T. no less than 100 times.”(Staton 17, 61) The word is used as referring to the physical tongue itself or to an unknown language. “The word glossa is used no less than fifty times in the New Testament.”(Staton 17 6) In the New Testament the word is used in two ways as in the Old Testament. First as in reference to the physical tongue as an organ. See Mark 7-5, Luke 164, Romans 1; 1411, and ect. Then tongues refers to the human languages as in Acts 4. Luke names 15 different languages in verses 8-11. There is an interesting note here to be found in Acts 8. You will find a different word being used for tongues in the Greek. The Greek word here is dialektos from which we get Our English word dialect. This word refers to the specific language of a nation. This is confirmed in Acts 6 when it speaks of each person hearing in their own tongue “language”. “The word translated as “language” is dialekto from which our word “dialect” comes. The two terms “tongue” (glossa) and “language” (dialectos) are obviously used interchangeably here, making it clear that the disciples were speaking in other languages.”(Burdick 16 15) Words like “languages” and “dialect” indicate that this is not ecstatic speech. The same term for language is used later in the book of Acts and in 1 Corinthians. Both Acts tongues and the true gift of tongues in Corinthians are the same. The “languages” as referred to in Acts is in the plural form. The reason for this is because there are many different languages. The ecstatic gibberish and babble that makes up our modern day version can never appear in the plural form because there are not many different kinds of gibberish or babble. Jimmy Jividen even speaks of this when defining tongues in our modern age. “Glossolalia is somtimes defined as “ecstatic speech connected with religious excitement.”(Jividen 171 1)

It is utterance of uncomprehended and seemly

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random speech in sounds . . . . The speech

itself rises in an effortless flow of

unusually complex structure, with the

repetition and inflection characteristic of

language. It is neither controlled nor

directly understood by the speaker, but

takes possession of his speech. While known

to him, but not the speaker, the meaning is

almost always spoken by an interpretation.

(Kelsey 164, 1)

Whenever Paul wanted to refer to the real gift of languages he used the plural form. The word “unknown” is used with all singulars to designate a difference between the gibberish and babble and the true gift of languages in plural form. Tongues is not speaking in babble. You cannot translate gibberish, can you understand your baby when they rattle something off in their baby talk. No! In 1 Corinthians 147 it says that the language must be translated. What we are finding in Acts and in 1 Corinthians is that the true gift of tongues was always a real language not the counterfeit babble or so called secret prayer language we find today.

Many of the charismatic groups say that tongues are a sign of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Others say it is a secret prayer language. Still others will claim that it is a sign of your salvation and the list will go on and on. We just looked at how it is a language and not babble. Yet what is their purpose?

In Mark 1617-0 we find in the list of miraculous signs that would be performed by the apostles would be tongues. This passage tells us the purpose of these signs. “And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the 1signs that followed.” We learn that the reason for these signs was to confirm the word. In other words the miracles gave the evidence to those who were hearing the preaching of the word, that this message was from God.

There are in essence three overall purposes for the gift of tongues. First it is to be the confirmation by God of the revelation that is spoken by men inspired by Him.(Jividen 171, 5) Secondly, the purpose is for edufication and building up of the church. “The gift was not to be used unless it would edify. This was the instruction that Paul laid down in the Corinthian church.”(Jividen 171, 54) The third purpose for tongues is that it is to be a sign to the unbelievers.(Jividen 171, 55) Even though we can see that there is a threefold purpose for the gift of tongues the overall purpose would be that they were to confirm the message that apostles were bringing to the world about Christ and the freedom from the bondage of sin that you could have. “Speaking in tongues thus fulfilled the purpose of confirming the oral message of the New Covenant as it was being proclaimed under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and was described as one of the “signs” given for such a purpose.”(Pack 17, 8)

God used the signs during the time of the apostles to “confirm” the spoken word until the church had the written word of the New Testament. Once the spoken word was in written form, there was no longer a need for the supernatural signs such as tongues, healings, and word of knowledge. “They [these miraculous gifts] were part of the credentials of the Apostles as the authoritative agents of God in founding the church. Their function thus confined them to distinctively the Apostolic Church, and they necessarily passed with it.”(Warfield 15, 6) The authority now full rested in the written word of God and not in the demonstration of signs and miracles. Tongues carried with them the element of revelation and God was giving revelation to the speaker. Since new revelation had ceased, tongues would no longer needed in light of the final revelation coming in written form.

“If the gift of tongues involved the

revelation of truth from God to man or

about man, then its purpose is no longer

needed because God has completed His

revelation (Rev. 18-1). The need for

today is to understand what He has already

revealed, not to have new revelation. The

silence of church history will confirm the

fact that the gift of tongues was not intended

to become a permanent part of church life.”

(Gromacki 167, 11)

What we must now look at is, whether tongues are still relevant for today? You have seen that according to the Word that the gift of tongues was the God given ability to speak in a foreign language that had never been learned. They were real human languages and not some secret prayer language. You have also seen that tongues had a main purpose is that it was to confirm the spoken Word and also to edify and to be a sign to the unbeliever.

We cannot just go around and bash those who claim they have the gift of tongues. We have to admire their devotion in wanting to be closer to God. Yet we must also realize the truth of what God’s word says. Our conclusion must be based upon that alone and not what we feel. In the basis for the relevance of today you have to see that the gift of tongues ceased. We have the written word of the New Testament which is God’s will revealed to us for all of mankind. We no longer have to base our faith upon the signs and wonders of the supernatural. The written word alone is a miracle in that it is still in existence today and it is still relevant to meet the needs of man. Just because the gift was around then at the time of the apostles does in no way mean that it is still around today. Also we should understand that not every Christian possessed this gift. Today many people feel that if they do not have this kind of excitement or experience they are not really true Christians and this is really not being spiritual. “An unhealthy craving for new and thrilling religious sansations, and emotional meetings of a most exciting character, readily account for these things.”(Ironside 147, 8) if we are to base our faith on just plain experience or the thrill of the sensation felt then we are no better than those that followed Jesus for a dinner and a show. Our faith has to be based upon that which desire to do for Christ and His kingdom and not what feeling we will receive from the experience. Our standard has to be that of God’s word and not our own feelings.

“Whether people realize it or not, when

they insist on spiritual gifts of the New

Testament being given in our time,

particularly prophecy and speaking in

tongues, what they are really saying is that

they do not accept the all sufficiency of

the scriptures for all matters of faith and

practice. They are really seeking additional revelations and claiming that they are

receiving them even though God has already

revealed the faith once for all to mankind.

(Jude ).

Also they are exalting their own experiences religiously above the standard of God’s

truth. When experiences become the standard

for our religious faith and life, God’s word becomes secondary and there is always grave

danger when this occurs. Our experiences need constantly to be judged by the rule of the scriptures, that guide that God has given us containing all things needed for life and

godliness. (II Peter 1).(Pack 17, 15)

When we realize that our sensations and experiences will not bring us closer to God they are only push away. I am pretty sure that we will be humbled and will be ready to repent. To just place them above what God has said in His Holy Word makes us just like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, who were placing their own traditions above what God had already said. Tongues were real and present in the church during its infant stage. Yet when God’s became written and readily available for those who desired to learn it the need for further revealing ceased. Yet the present age of the church we have those who say they have the gift, and yet it does not resemble that which is spoken of in God’s word. Tongues was the ability to speak in unlearned languages, not this jibber jabber babble we see and hear today. Tongues was for confirming His word and for evangelism and edification of the church not exalting one’s self. We no longer have the need for signs and wonders we have all we need in His word and it is final.

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