Modern-Day Tongue Speaking

All who believe the Bible are aware there were those in the early church who had the ability to speak in tongues, that is, languages they had not learned (I Corinthians 12:28). From the 16th chapter of Mark we learn that the ability to speak in tongues was a sign promised by Jesus to His disciples after giving them what has come to be known as “The Great Commission.” Notice, if you will, that these apostles were commanded to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. Understandably, the gift of tongues was a very powerful sign to all who heard these unlearned Galileans speaking to them in their own native languages. What more powerful or convincing demonstration could have been given than on the Day of Pentecost when men from all nations heard the apostles preaching to them the gospel of Jesus Christ in their own native tongues? So powerful was the demonstration, the Scripture says: “they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, behold are not all these Galileans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?” (Acts 2:7-8)

The purpose of signs is revealed by the disciples response to the great commission:

And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following” (Mark 1 6:20). In agreement with this, the Hebrew writer says: “Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For... How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard Him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles of the Holy Ghost, according to His own will? (Hebrews 2:1,3,4)

We see then, according to the Scriptures, that the purpose of miraculous signs was to confirm the word of God which was declaring a new and divine message. The need for extraordinary proof during that period is understandable when one realizes the nature of the message—Jesus of Nazareth, who had been crucified on the Roman cross, had been raised from the grave and was now in heaven on the right hand of God. It was this Jesus who God had raised up and given all authority as both Lord and Christ. It was because of His life, death, burial, and resurrection, that the sins of all mankind could be forgiven. It was a salvation without price, unmerited and truly a gift from God.

We learn then from Scripture that tongues were foreign languages (I Corinthians 12:10; Acts 2:4, 6, 8, 11). However, many of our Pentecostal friends maintain tongues are ecstatic utterances. It should be apparent that what they teach on the subject is not in harmony with the word of God. And if we can use their own words as any indication, then maybe it is apparent to a great many of them as evidenced by the following:


The devil will be right on hand to challenge your experience, telling you that you made it all up or that it sounds foolish and crazy (everyone seems to experience this testing). But if you continue in faith, the Lord will give you confidence in your new tongue. (Christian News, November 25, 1968, page 11)

Are we to believe that any of the apostles experienced this testing? We think not! Furthermore, we learn from these Pentecostals that tongues function as a sign to believers that they have received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This, too, is a clear-cut contradiction of Scripture which says, "Wherefore tongues are a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not..." (I Corinthians 14:22). Although Pentecostals teach that all believers should be baptized in the Holy Spirit and therefore speak in tongues as evidence of it, the Bible states that not all had the same gifts and not all spoke in tongues (1 Corinthians 12:4-11, 30).

The modern-day “tongue-speakers” or glossolalists, as they are often called, would have us believe that “their gift” comes from God; but it is apparent that it comes not from God but from man. The observations of Dr. John Kilbahl, a psycho-therapist who conducted a 10 year in-depth study of these modern-day tongue speakers, illustrates this very well:


The importance of the leader was well illustrated by the fact that the style of glossolalia adapted by the group bore a close resemblance to the way in which the leader spoke. A linguist engaged in glossolalia research found that prominent visiting speakers affected whole groups of glossolalists. Although no two tongue-speakers sounded exactly alike, if the prominent leader spoke in a kind of Old Testament Hebraic style, those who were taught by him also spoke in this manner. If the leader of the group evidenced Spanish diction and mannerism, his followers also developed that style. It is not uncommon for linguists to be able to tell which prominent itinerant glossolalist has introduced a congregation to tongue-speaking. Relatively few men and women travel the tongue-speaking circuit. The glossolalist styles of Bennett, Bredesen, Christenson, du Plessis, Mjorud, and Stone are distinctive enough to be identifiable by observant linguists. (Kildahl, The Psychology of Speaking in Tongues, Harper & Rowe, 1972, page 53)

As to the nature of their “gift,” we can learn further from the instruction given by these tongue-speakers on receiving it:


1 . Help the candidate see that the gift is already given and all he has to do is to receive it. 2. Lead him to realize that anyone who is saved through baptism is prepared to receive the baptism of the Spirit. 3. Tell him that when hands are laid upon him he will receive the Holy Spirit. 4. Tell the candidate he is to expect the Spirit to move on his vocal chords, but that he must cooperate with the experience as well. 5. Tell him to throw away all fear that this experience might be false. 6. Tell him to open his mouth wide and breathe as deeply as possible, at the same time telling himself that he is receiving the Spirit now. (G.E. Stiles, The Gift of the Holy Spirit, page 104 [cited by Morton T. Kelsey, Tongue-Speaking, Doubleday, 1964, page 801)

Before concluding this article, we would like to once again quote Dr. Kildahl:


We attended many meetings where glossolalia both occurred and was interpreted, and noted that the interpretations were usually of a very general nature. After a segment of tongue-speech, an interpreter commonly offered the explanation that the speaker had been thanking and praising God for many blessings. Another frequent theme was that the speaker was asking for strength and guidance for himself and others.

However, perhaps a third of the time, the interpreter offered specific interpretations of what glossolalists said. More rarely, an interpreter 'translated,' phrase by phrase and sentence by sentence. In order to investigate the accuracy of these interpretations, we undertook to play a taped example of tongue-speech privately for several different interpreters of tongues. In no instance was there any similarity in the several interpretations. The following typifies our results: One interpreter said the tongue-speaker was praying for the health of his children; another that the same tongue-speech was an expression of gratitude to God for a recently successful church fund-raising effort.

When confronted with the disparity between their interpretations, the interpreter offered the explanation that God gave to one person one interpretation of the speech and to another person another interpretation. They showed no defensiveness about being cross-examined and generously upheld alternative interpretations as equally valid...

We know of a man who was raised in Africa, the son of missionary parents, who decided—rather cynically perhaps—to test the interpretation of tongues. At the appropriate moment, he rose and spoke the Lord's prayer in the African dialect he had learned in his youth. When he sat down, an interpreter of tongues at once offered the meaning of what he said. He interpreted it as a message of the imminent second coming of Christ. (Kildahl, op. cit., pages 62,63)

As Christians, we must rely upon the word of God as our only guide and rule of faith, recognizing that man has surely laid his foundation on the sand when following the subjectivity of human experience. As is usually the case, personal feelings are misleading and often fatal. The Bible is clear in its warning to Christians concerning the many false teachers in the world (1 John 4: 1). Furthermore, it is evident that many will be lost at judgement who thought they had prophesied, cast out demons, and done many mighty works in the name of Jesus (Matthew 7:22,23). And finally, the Scriptures state that some will be lost because they did not love the truth, but instead believed all the deception of wickedness, that is, “power” and “signs” and “wonders” (II Thessalonians 2:9-12).

We have shown that there is a difference between what some teach about the gift of tongues and what the Bible teaches on this important subject. We, therefore, appeal to our tongue-speaking friends to consider the end product of their false teaching: If they are right, then the Holy Spirit was wrong. If the Holy Spirit was wrong, then He did not reveal all the truth as Jesus said He would (John 16: 13). If the Holy Spirit did not reveal all the truth, then Jesus lied to His apostles. If Jesus lied to His apostles, then He was not the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6); neither was He the Christ, the Son of the living God. As the apostle John wrote in I John 2:21-22: "We have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and that no lie is of the truth. Who is a liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ?"

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