Tongues, A SIGN FOR TODAY
The gift of Tongues in the New Testament caused a commotion then as it does now. There is rampant abuse of this gift in today’s Pentecostal, as well as many other diversified denominations. Many can clearly see through the phony gibberish and self-taught babble, that it does not in any way resemble what was sent on that first Pentecost, following Yahshua’s ascension.
We also must make mention of the connection between ecstatic tongues and groups that follow a different spirit, and subject themselves to that spirit which controls and manipulates, as well as abuses and frightens those whom it snares. Whereas the true Spirit of Yahweh never imposes, controls or entraps, but comes in love, with edification, peace and joy, allowing those whom it blesses to yield or withhold as they choose.
It’s a sad and disturbing picture to see so many dismiss the wonderful gifts Yahweh offers for the manipulative and destructive forces of Satan. What we must guard against is the tendency to follow that old proverbial cliché and pitch out the toddler and tub, with the water, soap and everything else within reach, without embracing the genuine article, just because the counterfeit offends.
Sincerity is not a accurate test of truth, nor is personal experiences, we want Yahweh’s Word — the Bible itself — to teach us. When faced with what seems a contradiction or problem, we must let the Scriptures resolve that also. The Bible teaches us to test our experiences against sound Biblical teaching, and not base our teaching and beliefs on personal experiences.
Tongues is a gift, no one should beg, plead or “pray down” a gift. You take a gift when it’s handed to you. It would be improper to walk up and take a gift before it was offered to you. Acts 2:38 states “ye shall receive the gift.”
Are 3 Elements Necessary?
Must any modern meeting exercising the gift of tongues, also have the sound of a mighty wind, cloven tongues and foreigners understanding each tongue, in order to be legitimate? When we look in Acts 10 and 19, no mention is made of these and Paul in 1 Co. 14 does not require them. The charismatics try to read tongues into every instance in the New Testament where the Holy Spirit is given, even though tongues is only specifically mentioned three times. Likewise we shouldn’t presume the wind, fire and understanding of each tongue was present on all three occasions. We read in Ac. 11:15 of Peter telling those in Jerusalem of how “the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning.” How did Peter know it fell on the Gentiles at the house of Cornelius? Did he hear the sound of a rushing mighty wind or see cloven tongues like as of fire sit upon each of them? According to the scriptures they knew, “For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God (10:46).”
What is the connection between the Holy Spirit coming to rest within the first believers and cloven tongues in the likeness of fire? Just as fire was used by Yahweh in the Old Testament to symbolize His presence, in Acts it is also to symbolize the same thing, (see Ex. 3:2, Det. 5:4, Mt. 3:11, 1 Co. 3:13, He. 12:29, Ja. 3: 5-9 and Rv. 11:5 ). For an interesting analysis of the cloven tongues see A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament, volume 3, page 21.
A Tool, Gift or Sign?
Was the gift of tongues only a tool, given to the disciples to preach to those that did not understand any language the 120 could speak? In the New Testament tongues is called two things, neither of which is a tool. First it’s called a gift, to signify that it is free and you’re not even required to ask for it. Secondly it’s called a sign, which indicates its purpose, or what Yahweh uses it for (Strong’s #4592, from 4591 to indicate:- signify). Paul tells us in 1 Co. 14:22 it’s a sign “to them that believe not.”
The ones that heard the different tongues on Pentecost were “Jews, devout men.” Devoted enough to travel to Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost. It would not be misleading to say these devoted Jews undoubtedly could understand Hebrew. YNCA’s ministudy entitled Hebrew/Aramaic Origin of the New Testament, speaking of the synagogues throughout the Roman Empire where Paul preached states, “The language of the second Temple and synagogues at this time was Hebrew and Aramaic, not Greek.” These are the very synagogues where the “devoted Jews” would worship when not in Jerusalem. This is further verified in YNCA’s Was the New Testament Originally Greek? “These early [believers] were mostly Jews of the dispersion, men and women of Hebrew origin.” It’s also easy to supply proof that Paul and the other apostles communicated in Hebrew. Why then do some insist that this gift was necessary to tell the multitude the message of Yahshua the Messiah? Even the scriptures themselves show that they all shared a common language. Look at verses 7 and 12 and you can see they were speaking one to another, it’s obvious they had to have at least one language they all understood. Why then did the Holy Spirit use this gift of tongues to tell them “the wonderful works of God?” Because it was a sign “to them that believe not,” that would be those unbelieving “devoted Jews,” to prove to them that it was from Yahweh. “For the Jews require a sign” (1 Co. 1:22), and this was one of the signs Yahshua promised in Mk. 16:17 and Isaiah prophesied in Is. 28:11.
Hebrew, the Common Language
So it was not necessary to speak to each one in their particular language, they could have spoken in Hebrew and all would have understood, as was most likely the case with Peter starting in verse 14. It is wrong to take this one instance, where it tells of the languages being understood by those listening, which is never again hinted at in the rest of the New Testament, and declare that tongues is a tool for teaching in a foreign language. If this were the case then Cornelius would appear to be teaching Peter in Ac. 10:46, and the disciples of John the Baptist could be said to have taught Paul in Ac. 19:6.
A Hearing Miracle?
From the days of the early church Fathers (120 – 250 AD) some have seen in verse 8 evidence for a miracle of hearing performed on the audience. They are reluctant to say Luke was wrong, it wasn’t a gift of tongues it was a gift of ears. If this silly idea were true then the miracle was performed through the unbelievers not the disciples, never mind that tongues began before there was any audience (v. 4 & 6) and the permanent Jewish residence of the city only could hear foreign languages as jabber which they called drunken babble (v. 13).
The NT Makes Tongues Unnecessary?
Some dismiss tongues for today because once the New Testament could be written and distributed there would be no need for the gift. If this logic were true, all we need do is hand out copies of the scriptures and everyone could learn on their own. I must also mention the fact that the scriptures were not distributed until the Reformation and after printing was introduced in Europe. But Paul informs us in 1 Co. 1:21, “it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching (proclaiming),” not reading, “to save them that believe.” What about teaching those Gentiles that did not understand Hebrew? YNCA answers that one in Hebrew/Aramaic Origin of the New Testament on page 6, “The converted Jews in these assemblies would receive Paul’s letters and then teach the gentiles among them.”
I mentioned above, that certain groups declare tongues to have ceased because the New Testament is now complete. Merrill F. Unger, in his book New Testament teaching on Tongues, gives 8 reasons why tongues were only temporary (see pages 91- 98 ).
 They’re mentioned only in early lists.  They’re inferiority to other gifts.  They contrast the permanency of love.  They often fail.  They were to be replaced with something better.  They belong to a period of partial revelation.  The completed New Testament would make them unnecessary and useless.  They were limited to the apostolic church.
It’s amazing how, if you write enough words and aren’t that concerned whether they conform to what the Bible teaches, you can justify almost anything you chose. Unger, speaking of chapter 13 of First Corinthians, even goes as far as to say, “the apostle’s theme, which is not love but the fact of the temporary nature of tongues” (pg. 92). Discarding one of the scriptures most moving passages dealing with Yahshua’s greatest commandment (Jn. 13:34), all in order to dismiss what he doesn’t understand.
Tongues to Cease
Let’s examine chapter 13 and see what Paul really means. It’s true, he does say tongues will cease, there is no arguing that point. But when? “When that which is perfect (#5046) is come.” Now was the word perfect mistranslated and should read scriptures or the word, or maybe it is explained as such in other portions of the New Testament.
5046. teleios, complete, completeness:- of full age, man, perfect.
Vine’s – signifies having reached its end, finished, complete, perfect.
5047. teleiotes, from 5046; (the state) completeness, perfection.
5048. teleioo, from 5046; to complete, i.e. accomplish:- consecrate, finish, fulfil, (make) perfect.
The next question is what is perfect? Are the scriptures perfect or complete? The scriptures cannot and do not give us perfect understanding and complete knowledge.
Paul Knew “in part”
Was Paul enlightened with complete knowledge and understood all mysteries? The answer is no according to 1 Co. 13:2, unless we also believe he spoke the tongues of angels, could remove mountains and gave his body to be burned. Paul wrote a large part of the New Testament and received numerous revelations and heard unspeakable words in paradise (2 Co. 12: 3 & 7), he also was given clear understanding of the mysteries of God (1 Co. 4:1). Can we then say Paul had complete knowledge? For surly if the scriptures can give us complete, perfect enlightenment, then he, being one of the major writers, should have been so blessed. However his own words tell us differently. “Now I know in part.” Paul, like us, only had a portion of the complete picture, for Yahweh has put us on a need-to-know basis. “But then,” at the resurrection, “shall I know even as also I am known.” What a day that will be!
Did the scriptures give Peter complete understanding? Peter, in 2 Pe. 3:16 speaking of Paul, “in all his epistles …things; in which are some things hard to be understood.” Peter could still only say, as did Paul in 1 Co. 13:12, “now I know in part.”
What Can Scriptures Do?
What then are the scriptures given to us for? Ro. 15:4, “That we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” 2 Ti. 3:15, “the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation.”  “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 perfect,(739, NIV- wise) thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”
Adam Clarke’s comments on this passage from Clarke’s Commentary, N.T., vol. 2, p.636, “May be perfect] Artios From arti, to fit or adapt. It properly signifies an integer or whole number in arithmetic, to which nothing needs to be added to make it complete.” A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, vol. 3, p. 628, “May be complete (hina ei artios). Final clause with hina and present subjunctive of eime. Artios is old word (from root aro, to fit), specially adapted, here only in N.T.” Vine’s, vol. 1, p. 220, “Artios, fitted, complete (from artos, a limb, joint).” The Englishman’s Greek New Testament, “That the man of God may be complete, fully fitted to every good work” The scriptures are to equip us for the task of spreading the Good News and living according to Yahweh’s will.
Gifts vs. Fruits
Looking at chapter 13 of 1 Corinthians, often called the “Love Chapter,” we see where Paul explains in verses 1-3 that tongues, prophecy, knowledge and good works are in vain, if not applied in love (charity, Strong’s #26). Verses 4-7 lists the excellence of love. Verse 8, “charity never faileth.” Charity (#26), is translated love in Gal. 5:22, and is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, the same Holy Spirit that gives us the gifts of prophecy, tongues and knowledge. These gifts, as will all others, shall soon be disposed of, when “that which is in part shall be done away with,” but we will always retain the fruits of the spirit. Looking at the list of fruits in Galatians we must ask, will joy fail, will gentleness cease or will goodness vanish away? No, assuredly not! They will become even more apparent without the flesh to smother them. The fruits of the spirit in us will blossom, for we shall be spirit (1 Co. 15:49).
Checking out verse 11, it’s easy to see Paul’s analogy, when for instance as a child, you learn to add and subtract with the help of your fingers or other objects. But once you mature and study more advanced math the primitive form of adding is done away with, and simple calculations can be done in your head. This is what Paul is referring to, once we become spirit and put off the earthly we will communicate with Yahweh on an equal level (spiritual). The primitive or present gifts we are now given, tongues, prophecy, knowledge, will be unnecessary and discarded.
The Partial Done Away With
Now is Paul saying that all the gifts of the spirit will end or only the three mentioned? He clearly states, “that which is in part (#3313) shall be done away.”
#3313. meros, (to get as a section or allotment); a division or share.
The partial will be done away with., conditions will change. “For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Co. 4:18, NIV). This temporary abode, with all its limitations, will no longer hold us down, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Ro. 8:18). We must patiently wait. “It doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 Jn. 3: 2). Paul illustrates in verse 12 that we see only a reflection, or we could say a shadow, “but then face to face.” When then? When the scriptures are written and distributed? I think not! John tells us the exact same thing Paul is saying, “when he shall appear…we shall see him as he is.” Paul’s rendering, “when that which is perfect is come…then face to face.” See also Ro. 8:29, Col. 3:4, 1 Pe. 1: 4-6 and 2 Pe. 1:4.
How then can we be sure, “that which is perfect (5046),” speaks of Yahshua? Simply because the scriptures tell us He is perfect. In Lu. 13:32 Yahshua said, “the third day I shall be perfected (5048).” He. 5:9, talking of the Saviour, “And being made perfect (5048), he became the author of eternal salvation.” He was made “perfect (5048) through sufferings” (He. 2:10).
Did the Gifts Decline
Did all the gifts of the Holy Spirit slowly come to an end? Does the fact that the majority of miracles that were performed occurred in the early chapters of Acts indicate this gift eventually faded away, until it disappeared altogether? Should we surmise that whatever can’t be found in the later years of the apostle’s era, must have been discontinued? If we follow this sort of haphazard reasoning many vague conclusions could be drawn, which would result in the truth being mired in confusion and fabrication. Sadly, much like what we hear of today.
It’s been said that Paul, later in his ministry was unable to heal the sick, including himself, and the rate at which miracles occurred began to drop off. What we find in 2 Co. 12:7-10, is that Paul was given, no he was blessed with, “a thorn in the flesh” for his own benefit, to aid in the control over his carnal nature, “to keep me from becoming conceited” (NIV), as he puts it. Yahshua bears this out in verse 9, “my strength is made perfect (5048) in weakness.”
Does living for Yahweh automatically give us perfect health and a prosperous life style? It most certainly does not, as Paul’s case demonstrates. Our Father loves and cares for us, He keeps us from sliding too far down that slippery slope to be unable to get back up. He. 12:5-11 explains this plainly,  “For whom Yahweh loveth he chasteneth …,  If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons ….” The Father chastened us  “for our profit (our good, NIV), that we might be partakers of his holiness.  Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness.” If we were always obedient and pure, as was Yahshua, there would be no need for correction. “For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of Yahweh, that we should not be condemned with the world” (1 Co. 11:31-32). See also Pr. 3:11-12, Job 5:17-18 and Rv. 3:19.
Only if He Wills
Besides Paul’s ailment somepoint out Timothy and Trophimus, whom Paul was, as they put it, “unable to cure.” Despite the fact that Paul had no powers to cure anyone to begin with, we know nothing of the circumstances surrounding their personal lives at this time. “Who can speak and have it happen if Yahweh has not decreed it” (Lam. 3:37, NIV)? Yahshua instructed us to pray to the Father, “Thy will be done” (Lu. 11:2). “So then it is not of him that willeth, …but of God that sheweth mercy” (Ro. 9:16). The Apostle John fits it together in 1 Jn. 5:14, “if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us.” This shows that our Father will not give us what would do us harm or before it’s beneficial to our well-being. Yahshua pleaded with His Father three times to be saved from death (Mt. 26:38-44), yet remained faithful to Yahweh’s will right to the end. My point is that the Holy Spirit distributes gifts for all to benefit, “to profit withal” (1 Co. 12:7). The degree to which the power of the Holy Spirit was displayed in the 1st century assembly, will not necessarily be what Yahweh deems is required for us now. But one thing is absolutely certain, what He promised to do for them then, will be as true for us today, “for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable” (Ro. 11:29, NIV). For some to suggest the gift of healing was, over a 25 year period, slowly diminishing based on these three examples, is preposterous and very misleading, to the point of being deceiving.
1 Corinthians 14 Examined
Verse 1, “desire spiritual gifts, but rather that you may prophesy (#4395).” Prophesy was a spiritual gift, prophesying does not mean preaching. It’s irrelevant what it meant in the 15th century or the 20th century, what’s important is what it meant when Paul wrote it. After all we should desire to learn its true meaning, not impose ours upon it.
4395. propheteuo, from 4396; to foretell events, divine, speak under inspiration, prophesy.
4396. prophetes, a foreteller (“prophet”); by anal. an inspired speaker;
Vine’s, “a proclaimer of a divine message.”
A Direct Message
Prophesy rarely contained the foretelling of future events, however when this was the case it was obviously a direct message from Yahweh, that’s easy to see. Why is it so hard to recognize that prophesy is a divine message without the future being foretold? The definition doesn’t mention anything about preaching or teaching, simply inspired speaking. Let’s jump ahead to verse 3 where Paul explains, “But he that prophesies speaks unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.” Yahweh, using a member of the assembly, edifies (3618-19 to build, confirm), exhorts (3870 call to one’s side or aid, appeal, encourage), and comforts (3889 console). No preaching or teaching here. Teaching is a completely separate gift from prophesy or tongues, (see the lists in 1 Co. 12:9 & 28, Ro. 12:6-7, Ep. 4:11). Remember Philip’s daughters prophesied (Acts 21:9), and it would be unlike Paul to encourage women to prophesy if it meant teaching, and then within the same chapter order them to remain silent. Women can prophesy and still abide by Paul’s instructions because it is the Holy Spirit that speaks, using their voice. While praying or prophesying a person enters into the most Holy Place (He. 10:19), in direct communion with Yahweh, for this reason women must have their heads covered (1 Co. 11:5).
Tongues & Interpretation
The gift of tongues is as beneficial to the assembly as prophesy, if there is interpretation, verse 5, “greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret.” How are these two gifts related? They both operate “that the church may receive edifying.” Again it must be noted there is no mention of teaching, preaching or instruction. We must faithfully accept the scriptures as they are written, adapting them to accommodate our beliefs is always tempting and everyone of us has had that conflict to resolve. As has been mentioned tongues is a sign for those that, as yet, do not believe, as well as a gift of edifying for the assembly. The operation of tongues in Corinth, compared to Pentecost or Caesarea, obviously was not identical. Yahweh uses tongues as a sign at different times, while in the assembly it is for edifying, unless unbelievers are present, then it can be for both. Not unlike prophesy, which is also for edifying as well as warning of future events. It’s quite apparent tongues was dominating the services, Paul is trying to get the Corinthians to control tongues and accentuate prophesy.
Spaniards Understand Spanish
If tongues is a tool to teach foreigners, then why is it needed in the assembly? It would be rare that someone would be present who couldn’t understand what was being taught or at least came with someone who could interpret for them. If tongues is given to teach someone who doesn’t understand the common language of the majority, why would it be necessary to pray for interpretation? After all, if it’s to teach the gospel to one whom you otherwise can’t communicate with, the rest of the members don’t need an interpretation, they will learn in the common language of that assembly. In verses 23 and 26, if so many foreigners in one service needed tongues to understand the gospel, Paul is wrong then to disapprove. If tongues was a gift of the knowledge of a foreign language there would be no need for an interpreter. The one spoken to could be the interpreter. If you go to Spain and receive the gift of tongues that allows you to speak in Spanish, you’re not going to need an interpreter. It goes without saying, Spaniards understand Spanish.
This is How It’s Going To Be!
Paul informs them in verse 20, stop being childish, grow up! In verse 26 he chides them for their lack of discipline, everyone trying to outdo the rest, it’s chaos. In verse 27 he starts to lay out the rules, this is how it’s going to be, “If any man (5100) speaks in an [unknown] tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course (3313); and let one (1520) interpret.”
1520. heis; a prim. numeral; one:-a (an, any, certain), + man, one, only, other, some.
3313. meros, (to get as a section or allotment); a division or share
5100. tij; an enclitic indefinite pronoun; a certain, a certain one, some, some time, a while.
“If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret” (NIV).
Concerning verse 27 the Diaglott uses the word sentences, as if it’s mentioned in the verse, “in at most three sentences in succession.” How could saying one sentence at a time be disruptive? It’s impossible for sentences not to be said in succession but it’s possible for three people to all speak at once, and that’s disorderly. In verse 29 we see this acknowledged, as the same rule applies to the prophets, at the most three are to speak, those three are to speak “one by one” (verse 31).
Did tongues disappear, as many declare, or was it replaced with a pagan substitute? In, What Happened with Christianity on page 4 we read: “Historians attest to the change that came over the early fledgling Assemblies following the death of the Apostles, all of whom had been Jews. It is as if a curtain had come down upon their activities, and when it is raised a hundred years or so later, an entirely different situation is seen.” Merrill F. Unger gives a detailed account of many Church fathers to support his statement: “Speaking in tongues had no significant place in the post-apostolic church A.D. 100-400” (New Testament teaching on Tongues, P. 136). On page 22 of Deciphering the Biblical Gift of Tongues, it states, “The use of ecstatic gibberish in a religious service is an age-old phenomenon. It is a practice rooted in ancient mystery worship.” Is there a connection? Since nearly every true, scriptural practice was exchanged for a pagan equivalent why should we not expect tongues to be corrupted? Instead of trying to see how in the Bible it was done away with, we should be seeking the true form of tongues once again. YNCA suggest this in What Happened with Christianity on page 2 and 3, “At the same time there will be a restoring of original truth neglected through the centuries, Acts 3:21. As we near the end of the age it appears that Yahweh is moving to clear from the minds of sincere truth seekers the accumulated rubbish of pagan influence that has overwhelmed and saturated the faith once delivered.” Sometimes we all can benefit from a look inward and ask, am I a sincere truth seeker? I feel I have to be direct, I believe many have predetermined what gifts they want from Yahweh and which ones they don’t. Many say they love His word, they preach against abandoning the truths found there, but did they read: “desire spiritual gifts” (1 Co. 14:1), “covet earnestly the best gifts” (12:31), “forbid not to speak with tongues” (14:39)? Would one in their assembly be silenced, as they are in others, should Yahweh choose to speak through a member using this gift? Paul instructs us to “Quench not the Spirit” (2 Th. 5:19), or we could very well be guilty of silencing Yahweh.
Comments to YNCA
Under the heading, The Facts of the Matter on page 23 you state, concerning the giving of the Holy Spirit, “Immersion in water is necessary.” Also, with the chart on page 19 that shows five occasions when the Holy Spirit was given, you have, “Only water baptism is common to all.” Yet in your ministudy, The Authority to Baptize, you write on page 4 concerning Cornelius’ group that they “were given the Holy Spirit even before they were baptized.” Paul as well received the Holy Spirit before he was baptized, “Ananias… putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Master, even Yahshua… hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost” (Ac. 9:17). “Now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized” (22:16). Even you agree, “Ananias laid hands on Paul who then received his sight and was filled with the Holy Spirit” (from: Why Be Baptized Into the Name of Yahshua? page 9). It is possible that only one of the five on your chart received the Holy Spirit after they were baptized, that being the disciples of John. The question has arisen whether the 120 were re-baptized at Pentecost or if the baptism in Jn. 3:22 and 4:11 was sufficient. When did Yahshua receive the Holy Spirit? I believe, from Mt. 1:18 and 20, He had the Holy Spirit from conception. After all John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit before he was born (Lu. 1:15), why would the Messiah receive anything less? Was not the dove a sigh given for John (Jn. 1:33)?
Tongues is, as are all the other gifts, a blessing from our Father who loves us. As humans we tend to gravitate to the finest and best of everything, let us not give way to the flesh in this regard and overlook a gift “which was once delivered unto the saints.” Let us embrace the free gifts of Yahweh without any strings attached, despite our misgivings, which have arisen due to things we have heard or seen. For He most assuredly knows the benefits they will bring us if we, through faith, trust in Him.
Note: This article originally written in response to YNCA’s booklet Deciphering The Biblical Gift of Tongues.