MODERN MIRACLES (Part 2: Speaking in Tongues)

Speaking in tongues remains a common declaration for those who advocate for modern miracles. It may be one of the most claimed miraculous acts mentioned in the New Testament. I meet people here in Aberdeen and throughout Monroe County who claim to speak in tongues; I have heard people describe their experiences in speaking in tongues my whole life. Because of this ubiquitous assertion, all Christian should have a defensible and teachable knowledge on the subject. What does the Bible say about speaking in tongues?

1 Corinthians 14 explains the purpose and use of speaking in tongues. This chapter should be one of the first passages Christians use to explain speaking in tongues. The church in Corinth had been abusing the spiritual gifts. Paul spends the majority of chapter 14 describing the proper use of speaking in tongues while comparing its purpose to other spiritual gifts such as prophesying.

First, consider the context. In chapter 12, Paul lists the spiritual gifts and compels the Christians at Corinth not to be jealous or covet the spiritual gifts of others, because all Christians have a place in the service of the church. Paul ends with describing the most powerful gift of all. In chapter 13, Paul elucidates the gift of love as the most powerful and lasting gift from God, which all Christians can share. The spiritual gifts are nothing compared to the gift of love because the spiritual gifts will pass away when their purpose has been fulfilled (1 Cor. 13:8-10), but love will endure forever. – The gifts will pass away. In chapter 14, Paul rebukes the Corinthian church for their misuse of the spiritual gifts and explains the proper use and purpose in specific comparison with the gift of prophecy. – How to use the gifts to serve their purpose.


According to 1 Corinthians 14, God designates two purposes for speaking in tongues: to edify the church (vs. 1-6) and to show the evidence that the speaker has been blessed and testifies on behalf of God (vs. 22-25). If a person doesn’t use the gift for these purposes, then that person doesn’t need to be using it. Those that come to the services of the church and see several people ranting in several tongues and making a spectacle of themselves without any admonition or instruction from the speaker or interpreter will think these people are “mad” (vs. 23). God obviously never wanted this spiritual gift to be used to bring confusion. If a person does not explain what is being spoken, then the ‘tongue’ is not being used as God has designated (1 Cor. 14:19).


Mechanically speaking, modern performers who speak in tongues do not accurately represent the true spiritual gift of the first century. They are frauds! Firstly, the Greek word for “tongue” is γλῶσσα [glōssa] meaning language and instrument/organ of speech (Strong). The “tongues” mentioned in this chapter are foreign languages. Languages that those in the area would be “unlearned” (1 Cor. 14:23). The miracle here is that those that could speak these foreign languages were never taught how to speak the language.

Secondly, “the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets…” (vs. 32). The miracle workers of the first century could control their spiritual gifts; otherwise, how would they stop when Paul told them to be silent without an interpreter (vs. 28). Paul demands that unless the speaker could use an interpreter to teach the church the message of God, then the speaker was not using the gift properly and should be silent!

Some speakers of tongues today will say that the Spirit possessed them, and they didn’t even know what they were saying. If the speaker of languages and the speaker to discern languages, had no control or memory of what was said, then how could they edify themselves, as Paul says in verse 4?

Thirdly, God wants the speaker of tongues to edify the church, which implies it should used in the assembly (1 Cor. 14:12). Some people who claim to have the ability to speak in tongues will say that they use the gift in private, just between them and God. No example in Scripture exists that would allow for such usage. God designs the use of speaking in tongues for the unbeliever, not the believer (1 Cor. 14:22). Paul exhorts the brethren to use their gifts to bring glory to God, not themselves (1 Cor. 12:6).

Modern and false speakers of tongues today grossly misrepresent the biblical teaching on speaking in tongues!

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