Time to examine what the Bible says about tongues...
Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say "Amen" to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying? For you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up. I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue. -- 1Corinthians 14: 13-19 (ESV)
I have written devotionals in a series called "Sacred Pentecostal Cow Tipping", where I examine some closely held yet unbiblical beliefs within the modern Pentecostal experience. I sometimes get criticized and wrongly assumed to be a cessationist for my position on the gifts of the Spirit. I believe cessationism however is wildly unbiblical. The mere timeline alone would make no sense. That God would have Paul write in such detail about gifts that would only be in operation for a handful of decades. We know that while Paul was writing to the individual congregations in his epistles, God was writing the eventual Bible and God was well aware through His omniscience that the Bible would not be constructed for hundreds of years after the end of the Apostolic Age. Cessationism beloved, the belief that the gifts of the Spirit ended when the Apostle John died, strains logic and credulity.
That said, I understand why sound theologians often find themselves believing in cessationism. They see the ridiculous abuses of the gifts of the Holy Spirit within the modern day Pentecostal experience and are so reviled they want to throw the baby out with the Charismatic bath water. I would prefer to tip over some sacred cows and get us to see what we do through the lens of Scripture. I understand that is often a jarring consideration. It is unsettling and uncomfortable. To have to come face to face with our own unbiblical practices is to admit we are wrong. The argument of "that is how we have always done it" however is the exact criticism most Pentecostals have of Catholics. That everything is based on traditions instead of the Bible. This battle against our flesh was hard enough but in recent days it has become even more difficult. That is because of the proliferation of the false signs and lying wonders network of churches such as Bethel and IHOP along with their network of propaganda led by Charisma News and the various false prophet networks. That combined with the cancerous spread of NAR dominionism has led to a church that is so narcissistically focused that it cannot consider the mere possibility that what they are doing is wrong. The Bible? That is secondary now to our experience. Therefore if someone experiences something that doesn't line up with the Bible the experience is considered correct!
Let me give you a personal example. I always believed in being "slain in the Spirit." It was part of our weekly Pentecostal experience and I myself was once slain and during the time I was "out" I really felt God minister to me. When I started doing biblical research on the topic however I was left with the startling revelation that there is no way this experience is Scriptural. What a conundrum! I have this very real experience on one hand and the Bible on the other. In the end, I had to side with the Bible since God knows better than I do and my heart is wickedly deceitful. I had to embrace the fact that the night I was slain I was in a very emotional place, having just lost someone I loved. This left me vulnerable to an emotional response and I simply convinced myself it was spiritual. What about God ministering to me? Well, He is God. He can choose to minister to us in any event. That is how we need to approach everything we believe. With our Bible in hand and our experience checked by the assurance of Scripture. Thus we come to the third rail of spiritual gift conversations -- tongues.
The above linked article comes from Charisma News and is chock full of everything we confuse when it comes to the conversation about tongues. The writer probably means well. This is just how we are taught. He tries desperately to mingle Scripture in but does so haphazardly. Let us reason together and see what the writer and the Bible actually say about this very sacred Pentecostal cow.
"Praying in tongues is an amazing and precious gift. Some leaders may seem to apologize for it even though it is a biblical truth and is for today, trying to keep it a secret even though it was first seem publicly on the Day of Pentecost." -- Jared Laskey
This sounds so right doesn't it beloved? It however is grossly wrong. Praying in tongues is not a precious gift of the Spirit. Speaking in tongues is. Even the referenced Day of Pentecost did not see Peter and the apostles praying in tongues at all did it?
When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. -- Acts 2: 1-4 (ESV)
All the text says is they were gathered together in one place. The act of tongues, the result of the Holy Spirit being poured out, is described as speaking, not praying. Furthermore, it is described as foreign languages not some form of incoherent babble as we see in churches across this world today. God supernaturally turned their language into the languages of everyone who was listening. This was the gift of tongues as biblically outlined. This is why interpretation was so vital to the process. If someone who spoke only Aramaic was suddenly speaking in Chinese, no one would know unless someone who understood Chinese was present to interpret what they had just said. So what then is Jared Laskey confusing?
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, becausethe Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. -- Romans 8: 26-27 (ESV)
This is the biblical context for praying in tongues. Note however the prerequisites that must be met. It is derived from our weakness in prayer. From getting to the point we all have come to -- where we do not even know what to pray. A place of spiritual desperation if you will. It is in those moments that the Holy Spirit indwelt within us will actually intercede because He can search our hearts and fully understands the will of God. Note however that even this does not sound like the current manifestation of church tongues does it? This says it will sound like "groanings to deep for words" not some disjointed prattle. I have seen Christians travailing at the altar in prayer where all you hear are guttural groanings amidst the sobbing. That sounds closer to these Scriptures than the showy -- look at me -- manifestation of church tongues. Laskey would continue:
"The gift of tongues is an incredible spiritual gift, as they all are, and we are to develop our spiritual language after Jesus gives it to us (Matt 3:11. Luke 3:16, Acts 1:8)." -- Jared Laskey
No, no, a thousand times no. Of course tongues as all gifts are incredible. The notion however that we are to "develop" our spiritual language is supported nowhere in Scripture. According to the Bible it is the Holy Spirit who apportions the gifts as He sees fit. By conflating the notion of praying in tongues with the gift of tongues, Laskey has now been able to proffer the unbiblical notion that everyone one can develop the language. Remember however that the Bible makes it very clear that not everyone has the same gifts. Therefore not everyone has the gift of tongues. Now, everyone can pray in tongues as outlined above but the prerequisites make it clear this is not something that can be "developed." How does one develop groanings? Nevertheless, Laskey would soldier on:
"The Apostle Paul is a great model for us to follow, as he taught that tongues were not a one time or occasional matter, but it was a lifestyle. In 1Corinthians 14:18 he said, "I thank my God that I speak in tongues more than you all." This should be the same in our lives and churches." -- Jared Laskey
It is here I started to worry about the writer's sincerity or objectivity because this is such a blatant and poor handling of Scripture. I fear this is a result of what I call strip mining the Bible. The writer fervently and sincerely believes in what he writes so he scours the Word of God for any verse fragments that support his thesis, disregarding the actual context and what God was actually trying to say. The assertion here from Laskey is that the Apostle Paul taught us to follow a model where tongues were a lifestyle. Let us reason together by examining the entire context of 1Corinthians 14:18, found in the key verses today. Paul says that if we pray in tongues our mind is unfruitful. What does that mean? It reinforces that the work of spiritual prayer is entirely of the Spirit. Remember the Spirit is interceding because we do not know what to pray. The same would go for the expression of the gift, being foreign languages. On the Day of Pentecost there is no way the Apostles knew what they were saying because the act of speaking in the foreign language was indeed still foreign to them. It was an act of the Spirit not their minds. Paul asks the next logical question which is -- what do I do then? He sets up the true pattern for us to follow as believers. As much as we are to desire the spiritual experience of praying or singing praise through our Spirit we must also pursue doing so with our mind. The object is to avoid the super-spiritualism that is promoted in churches today. Of what use is it to speak through the Spirit and not the mind? No one will understand what you are saying! Notice the key here that Laskey somehow misses is that the Apostle Paul says he would rather speak five words with his mind that might instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue! Yes he is thankful that he speaks tongues more than any of them but that is because he is mature in understanding the role tongues is to play! This is not emphasizing a "lifestyle" of tongues but the exact opposite! He is emphasizing the need to not fall into the hyper-charismatic trap today's church finds itself in. This is consistent with earlier in the very same chapter:
Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up. Now, brothers if I come to you speaking in tongues, how will I benefit you unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching? If even lifeless instruments, such as the flute or the harp, do not give distinct notes, how will anyone know what is played? And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle? So with yourselves, if with your tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is said? For you will be speaking into the air. There are doubtless many different languages in the world, and none is without meaning, but if I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me. So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church. -- 1Corinthians 14: 5-12 (ESV)
First of all, the fact that Paul desires them all to speak in tongues indicates that he knows they all will not. This further demonstrates the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit in deciding who receives what gifts. Secondly, is Paul establishing a hierarchy of tongues? Is he establishing a "lifestyle" of tongues? No! Just the opposite! He is saying to desire the better gifts. The ones that speak from the mind and the Spirit so that people may be built up! The implication here is clear. Coming to brethren with tongues devoid of revelation, knowledge, prophecy or teaching is of no benefit. What we see across the land today is people speaking into the air. It is a narcissistic, look at me spirit that edifies no one. Note also here the re-emphasis on tongues as foreign known languages and not gibberish. Paul fully acknowledges the eagerness to desire the manifestations of the Spirit, the same as we see today, but he is establishing a lifestyle of seeking gifts that impart to others. That edify others. That build the church. Laskey continues:
"But I let them know they are on the right track and need to continue in it, because it is about to grow." -- Jared Laskey
He is referring to people who come to him frustrated that they find themselves repeating the same indiscernible snippets over and over again when they "speak in tongues." The reason why of course is that these imperceptible fragments of speech do not mean anything. They do not mean anything on this plane of existence or spiritually. This is because they did not originate from the Spirit of God but rather from the depths of our wicked hearts. From our desire to be seen. From our desire to appear spiritual. We saw all the other super-spirituals in our church wrapped in Jewish prayer cloths slain all over the sanctuary shouting out what we were told is a heavenly language and coveted it in our hearts. We didn't just want to speak it or pray it -- we wanted to sing it! I saw one time someone write in tongues. That is how absurd this has all become. Laskey here tells the deceived Christian to keep on deceiving themselves. Keep "practicing" and "developing" what the Bible does not say to practice or develop. If it is the prayer language then you must meet the prerequisites and then it will be groanings more than babble. If it is the gift, it should be foreign languages and the lifestyle we should seek is found in desiring the other gifts that serve others and not just ourselves. That fits with the rest of the theme of Jesus' teachings and the Gospel, no? Jared Laskey would conclude:
"We should also sing in tongues in our times alone with God. First Corinthians 14:15 says, 'I will pray with the Spirit, and I will pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the understanding.' This is a key to developing our spiritual language and in learning how to interpret them as we pray and sing in this gift. -- Jared Laskey
No Jared. You cannot rip verse 15 out of context and then misinterpret it like this. We do not have a spiritual language that can be developed like a second foreign language. Hooked on spiritual phonics will not help us. I understand why he is so deceived. There are schools popping up every day to teach the gifts, including tongues. There are false teachers who tell people to just say whatever rolls onto their tongue no matter how silly it might sound. People like Jared Laskey would then tell you to practice it. How Biblically absurd. The result is we have generations of people in churches today who fancy themselves as deeply spiritual but they actually are extremely carnal. They become desensitized actually to what the difference is between the spiritual and the emotional. When that happens you have a church that is ripe picking for the enemy. You have believers that find themselves farther away from God than they realize. That is how churches fall for such blatantly evil things such as holy laughter and the false signs and lying wonders. For the clairvoyance that passes for prophecy these days. For gem stones, gold dust, angel feathers and glory clouds. For one nonsensical, unbiblical absurdity after another embraced in the name of the Holy Spirit but derived from the depths of our wickedly deceitful hearts. Babbling, unintelligible tongues may seem harmless but any manifestation that we attribute to God that is not actually from Him only serves to drive us further away from Him.
Reverend Anthony Wade -- April 4, 2017
Credentialed Minister of the Gospel for the Assemblies of God. Owner and founder of 828 ministries. Vice President for Goodwill Industries. Always remember that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.