Speaking in Tongues Debate - 13 - When Should Speaking in Tongues be Used?

Chapter 13 


    This question had already brought me to reconsider the very popular idea that the gift of tongues should mainly be practiced in private. This idea is attributed to Paul who supposedly taught it to the Corinthians. Of course, I went to see what Paul said about it. Foiled again! No matter what version I used, this passage was not to be found. I felt like I was pursuing the invisible man. All I could find was "if there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God." (I Cor 14:28). That was simply the most elegant, the most Christian way to say " shut up"! But there is no mention of speaking in tongues at home, in private. Where should speaking in tongues be used? Since it was given as a sign for unbelieving Jews, it is logical that it be practiced in their presence, there where the sign had a chance of being understood, not where no one understood it. The best example is found in Acts 2. Here the sign appeared in the presence of Jews from fifteen different nations to show them that the election of God was for "everyone" and that it extended to "all flesh". The sign was given there in public, not in someone's house or in the church.  In the church, Paul preferred to say five words which were understood rather than ten thousand words which were not understood. Because of his calling as Apostle to the Gentiles, Paul had the opportunity to speak in tongues more than anyone else according to God's plan. In spite of the fact that he was the Apostle to the Gentiles, he was in contact and in conflict with Jews everywhere, even with his Jewish brethren in the faith who did not accept this particular point of doctrine.

    When Paul said, "I speak in tongues more than you all." he was not referring to the number of words spoken. He did not want to compete with the Corinthians for he would have been badly beaten by their prodigious fluency and chatter. It was in earnest that he spoke more than they did (I Cor 14:20), having spoken where he was seen and heard by unbelievers of this people for whom the sign was reserved (I Cor 14:22).

    Everyone knows that traffic lights are for the benefit of those who use the roadways. What would you think of a city's traffic commission deciding in the basement of the City Hall that all of the city's traffic lights would be for private use? If traffic lights are taken from their corners, their usage becomes absurd. In the same way, what use would the traffic light of tongues have been at home in private, that is to say, hidden from this people to whom the sign was destined? That is exactly what the sign meant. It was the green light opening the way for all the tongues of the earth to join in the procession of the Lord's redeemed.

Another Proof

    Perhaps someone is saying, "When Paul received the Holy Spirit, although he was a Jew, he did not speak in tongues. That would have been quite useful, especially for Ananias who came to lay hands on him." But in this case the sign would have been redundant. The Lord Himself had just informed each one directly in these words that the name of Jehovah and His Word were now passing on to the Gentiles, "Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel" (Acts 9:15), and "The God of our fathers has appointed you to know His will, and to see the Righteous One, and to hear an utterance from His mouth. 'For you will be a witness for Him to all men of what you have seen and heard'." (Acts 22:14,15). Paul knew it. Ananias did too. The sign was unnecessary in their case, as it is now for those who already know that the Gospel is for the people of every nation, tribe and tongue. Neither Paul, nor Ananias, nor we today, contest this truth. The sign would be superfluous.

Do not Forbid to Speak in Tongues

    One day, after having explained all this, a brother asked me, "Why did Paul say, 'Do not forbid to speak in tongues.'?" (I Cor 14:39). The answer is that in spite of the Corinthian's exaggerations and their untimely and inappropriate use of this gift, it was still a gift of the Spirit. Paul only wanted to control it, not stifle it. As long as this gift was exercised in its right time, Paul could not forbid its use, except where it was misused. God's gifts and calling are without repentance, as we see in the case of Samson. His herculean strength was also a gift of the Spirit, but in his spiritual immaturity he used and abused it just as the Corinthians did with speaking in tongues. Samson's strength and the Corinthian's gift were to be channelled to better ends until the Holy Spirit withdrew their practice. Paul did not discourage Luke from writing the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. Paul wrote more of the inspired New Testament than anyone else. Concerning the rest of the New Testament he could have said, "Do not forbid anyone to write", as he said, "Do not forbid it", about speaking in tongues. To continue writing sacred Scriptures or speaking in tongues when God himself decreed these gifts would cease is the sort of thing which breeds heresy.

    For those who, inspite of much evidence to the contrary, insist that no one should try to stifle the right to speak in tongues, I reply by citing another comparison. Speaking in tongues should be considered as one does the Gospel. It isn't enough to teach or to preach whatever seems applicable for it to have value. The Holy Spirit teaches us, using the pen of Paul, that the true Gospel, the only one that saves, is clearly explained. In I Corinthians 15:1-4, this explanation is remarkably precise:

"Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures."
    The Gospel is the bridge of salvation crossing the river of sin and resting on five pillars. If any one of these five pillars are removed, salvation is not possible because the Holy Spirit tells us that this is the minimum, otherwise our faith is in vain. The true Gospel must therefore contain:
1. The death of Christ for our sins (verse 3)
2. The resurrection of Christ for our justification (verse 4)
3. The announcement of the Good News (verse 1)
4. The reception of this Good News (verse 1)
5. The living of the Good News with perserverance (verse 1)

    Only a bridge firmly resting on these five pillars will lead to an assurance of salvation (verse 2). This is why the Holy Spirit adds ".... if you keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain." In other words, the other bank (or the "shore of salvation") can only be reached if these five pillars are in place. If one is missing, the bridge cannot be crossed.

If one believes that Christ died but not that he was resurrected from the dead (I Cor 15:12) your faith is in vain writes Paul-and the bridge cannot be crossed.
If one believes these first two essential points, but does not proclaim them (or if the proclaiming is done in private with the idea of only edifying the speaker) no one would be saved because God says "... and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?" (Rom 10: 14)
If the first three conditions are met but those who hear the offer of salvation do not receive it by faith, they cannot become children of God (John 1:12). One of the pillars is missing and the bridge cannot be used.
And finally, if all four conditions are met but this good news is not inscribed permanently in the daily life through perseverance, the Bible says that you have believed in vain. The Gospel reduced to only 4/5 of it's whole is as useless as the renown "Pont d'Avignon" whose span ends midway across the Rhone. This gospel can be used by no one to reach the shore of salvation: it is no longer the Gospel but instead a false gospel.
    It is the same with speaking in tongues. It can be likened unto a bridge with seven pillars which could be called the great Bridge of Pentecost at Jerusalem. At least these seven pillars are needed to have a true speaking in tongues. And at the same time remembering that an act 2/7 or 4/7 or even 6/7 authentic means that it is actually false.
It must be an actual language. (I Cor 14:10, Acts 2:8)
It must not be addressed to men. (I Cor 14:2)
It must be addressed only to God. (I Cor 14:2)
It must not be a sign for believers. (I Cor 14:22)
It is to be a sign to the unbelieving Jews that the Gospel is for all peoples. (I Cor 14:21)
It is to be a sign of judgment for the unbelieving Jews. (Is 28:11-13, I Cor 14:21)
It is not to be practiced in private but publically in the presence of unbelieving Jews for whom it is destined. (Acts 2:5, I Cor 14:22)
    If today we were presented with a manifestation of speaking in tongues having all the guarantees listed above, I too would say as does the Apostle Paul "...do not keep them from speaking in tongues." However, in the twentieth century, these seven conditions could never be found together in any gathering or church on the face of the earth.
    The speaking in tongues that is presented to us today is not even an imitation of the authentic, but is instead a counterfeit of that described in the Bible. No one would ever hear me say of it, "do not keep them from speaking." Printed on the money of my country is solemn warning: counterfeiters will be punished at hard labor. How much harder will be judged the person who counterfeits that which is to be a gift of the Spirit.

The Great Number

    The thing that reassures some and troubles others is the great number of people who speak in tongues today. That gave me a sense of security too in the past. I thought to myself with a certain self-satisfaction, "It is obvious that all who speak in tongues are not necessarily liars." But with my mania for thinking things through, which I inherited from Descartes, I could not leave it at that! (I have since learned that even the characteristics of analyzing and thinking comes from God, for He commands us to love Him with all our mind.) Like a storm cloud darkening the sky, my constant questioning often troubled my serenity when I wondered about the real worth of my arguments. Having great numbers is not a proof of being right. It was the majority that said, "Away with this man, and release for us Barabbas!" (Luke 23:18). The fact that 700 million Moslems believe in Mohammed does not prove that what he said is true. More people believe in the miracles of Lourdes and consequent doctrines than speak in tongues. Does that mean that we must accept the false doctrines concerning Mary? Jesus was often alone. So were Jeremiah and Paul. That did not change the fact that they were in the right.

    But the greatest argument of all had to do with the experiences of several leaders in the evangelical world today who speak in tongues, and whose reputations were regarded as a reference. Though that may still be a point of reference for others, it no longer counts for me, for there are many great men of God with world-wide reputations who are thoroughly against the use of tongues today.

The Magnifying Glass

    A few years ago I had the honor of meeting one of the best known, most highly regarded leaders among those who speak in tongues. As he shared with me some of his discoveries which have nothing to do with the subject we are discussing, I recognized two obvious doctrinal errors. His reputation also slipped. I can still listen to his preaching with appreciation, but not with the same blind admiration which his reputation had previously evoked. Without a magnifying glass he had a respectable Christian stature, but nothing more than the normal Christian possesses. His teaching was no more infallible than that of the Pope in Rome who stands for indulgences and against the marriage of priests. But that is another question and it is their problem, not mine. My responsibility is to submit to the Scriptures as Job did (Job 32:12). There are only two responsibilities, either we believe in the sovereign, transcendental Word of God, or we believe in "proofs", experiences" and other famous assertions like those I have just mentioned. I had to recognize, in spite of myself, that these "experiences" which are doubtful at best, lack weight, besides the fact that they are being exercised outside of God's timing.