Where does the church stand on speaking in tongues?
We believe that the gift of speaking in tongues (as a blessing) was first revealed in Acts 2. We believe that tongues follow a similar pattern every time God is involved.
Acts 2:1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
However, the story, in the book of Acts, isn’t the first times tongues were given to man. The first time tongues were given as a curse not as a blessing. This is found in –
Genesis 11:1 Now the whole world had one language and a common speech.2 As men moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.3 They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar.4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”5 But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building.6 The LORD said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”8 So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city.9 That is why it was called Babel— because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth.
I don’t think that you can understand tongues if you don’t bring into account Genesis 11. You see, man’s work of the flesh brought a curse on man that caused division of the human race, via different tongues. The work of the cross brought a unity to the human race, via tongues, Acts chapter 2.
This brings up another point concerning tongues. I can’t find anywhere in the Word where tongues are said to be “unknown.” In fact, in Acts they are labeled by language.
Acts 2:8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language?9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”
So where did the idea of “unknown” tongues come from? I believe that it came from the Corinthians and the book of 1 Corinthians. In 1 Corinthians 14 Paul talks to the church about speaking in an unknown language. The thing some people don’t seem to see while reading this portion of scripture is – Paul was scolding them for what they were doing. He was being sarcastic trying to wake them up. Someone might say, “I don’t think Paul would be sarcastic.” Well, 2 Corinthians is full of divine sarcasm, especially chapter 11. A good example of other sarcasm is found in –
2 Corinthinas 11:19 You gladly put up with fools since you are so wise!20 In fact, you even put up with anyone who enslaves you or exploits you or takes advantage of you or pushes himself forward or slaps you in the face.21 To my shame I admit that we were too weak for that!
I believe what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14:18 and following sums it up pretty well.
1 Corinthinas 14:18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you.19 But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue. 20 Brothers, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults.
Paul traveled into areas that required him to have the gift of tongues to speak to many different groups of people. He had that gift. What the Corinthians had wasn’t a gift, it was nonsense and actually evil. He told them to stop it.
I do believe that it’s possible that the gift of tongues exist somewhere in the world today. It is possible that somewhere a missionary or someone might need that gift to speak to someone or some group about Christ. He, not knowing their language, might supernaturally be able to speak to them because of a gift of God. The purpose of that gift would be to share the Gospel with them.
1 Corinthinas 14:22 Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is for believers, not for unbelievers.
I’ve seen something that others called the gift of tongues but by the New Testament definition I don’t believe that it was the gift of tongues.