Skip to main content

Search LearnTheBible

Speaking in Tongues - Are Tongues for Today?

 Are tongues for today?  Are they unknown or known tongues and what is the meaning of angelic tongues?  Can you explain 1 Corinthians 14 to me; this is the chapter that my relatives say proves that speaking in tongues is for today.

No. They went out of use with the sign gifts. The sign gifts were miraculous gifts given during the apostolic age (before the completion of the New Testament) so that those to whom the apostles preached would know that the word they spoke was really from God. When the New Testament was completed and direct revelation was no longer given, there was no longer any need for the sign gifts. Notice these characteristics about the sign gifts.

  1. The signs were given for the purpose of "confirming the word" (Mark 16:20). This means to prove that the words they spoke with their mouths were from God.
  2. The signs included taking up serpents and drinking deadly poisons (Mark 16:17-18). If we are supposed to do one, then evidently we are supposed to do the others.
  3. The signs were given especially for the Jews (1 Corinthians 1:22). God often deals with the Jewish people through signs beginning with Moses (Exodus 3-4).
  4. The signs were given (especially tongues) in order to convince the lost. "Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not" (1 Corinthians 14:22). They were never given for the pleasure or spiritual experience of the saved. This verse says that they are not for those that believe.
  5. Although tongues were still allowed at the time of the writing of 1 Corinthians (14:39), they were on their way out. We see this in the great number of regulations Paul puts on the speaking in tongues and in his emphasis on the lesser importance of tongues (14:1-9). He also clearly says that tongues "shall cease" (1 Corinthians 13:8).
  6. Tongues took the path of apostolic healing through the instrumentation of man. Christ healed all that came to Him (Matthew 9:35). The early apostles did the same (Acts 5:16). Yet, before the New Testament was completed, Paul could not heal himself (2 Corinthians 12:7-9) or his co-worker, Trophimus (2 Timothy 4:20). He kept Doctor Luke with him (2 Timothy 4:11) and told Timothy to take a prescription of medicine (1 Timothy 5:23). God still heals through prayer (see Philippians 2:25-27), but He does it directly and not through the touch of a man.

They are unknown in that they are languages no one present knows. When tongues were spoken on the day of Pentecost, every man heard the word in his own language (Acts 2:8). This is not angelic language. Paul only uses "the tongue of angels" as a contrast. [Even if I spoke in the language of angels, that would do no one any good if they could not understand me.] He was not defining unknown tongues an angelic language.

1 Corinthians 14 is proof that:

  1. Tongues were already unimportant in the service of Christ by about 60AD.
  2. The most carnal church Paul wrote to (see 1 Corinthians 3:1-4) was caught up in tongues-speaking and gave way too much emphasis to it.
  3. No speaking of tongues should be done unless the tongues are interpreted (v.27-28).
  4. No more than three should ever speak in tongues in a church service (v.27).
  5. Only one should ever speak in tongues a one time (v.27). That's what "by course" means--in order, one after the other.
  6. Those who truly speak in Spirit-given tongues can speak if they want or refrain from speaking if they want (v.32). God-given tongues is not some uncontrollable urge that comes over someone. It is a gift that they can use when they want just like preaching.
  7. Women are not to speak in tongues in a church service (v.34).
  8. Truly spiritual people will agree that these restrictions are necessary (v.37).
  9. Paul clearly told the Corinthians that tongues were going to cease (13:8). When would they cease? Tongues were a form of divine revelation; thus, the importance of interpretation (14:5). They would cease when Gods perfect revelation was completedthat which is in part is replaced by that which is perfect (13:10). Gods perfect revelation is found in His completed Bible and no new revelation is needed (Revelation 22:18).

I do not think that many churches follow the rules set down by Paul for the speaking in tongues. Does the church your relatives go to follow all these rules? If not, then they are not following God's plan.

You see, Paul was kindly regulating tongues to a minority role in the church at Corinth so that it could die out gracefully when it was no longer needed. It was no longer needed when the New Testament was completed.