“Tongues” in the New Testament
We believe it is critical to preserve and promote the unity that Christ secured and longs for in His church. One regularly misunderstood and potentially divisive topic concerns the knowledge and use of the “gift of tongues.” The Elders of Community Bible Church promote the biblical understanding and teaching of this extraordinary work by the Holy Spirit.
- “Tongues” is a real, God-given gift, distributed by the sovereign choice of the Holy Spirit at specific times and circumstances. It is not intended as a mark of salvation, nor given to every believer (1 Co 12:10; 14:2, 4-11).
- Outside of Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 12-14, “tongues” is never referenced or inferred in the New Testament. Paul states this gift holds lesser significance than others (i.e. prophecy).
- The only three references of “tongues” in Acts (2:4-13; 10:44-48: 19:1-10) describe the movement of the Gospel (from Jerusalem outward) rather than instructions concerning how the gift is to be used.
- Context must determine the meaning of words in the Bible and not contemporary readers’ experiences. The Greek words “Glossa” and “dialekta” (glossary and dialect respectively) define “tongues” as a miraculous power to speak another human language not previously known by the speaker (Acts 2:6-11; 1 Co 14:10-11). This eliminates tongues as an ecstatic utterance or repetitive babbling.
- Additionally, “tongues” must be clear and intelligible or Paul declares it to be meaningless (1 Co 14:7-9).
- Paul further declares that tongues must always be accompanied by “interpretation” (1 Co 14:4-5, 13, 26-28). If no one interprets then the speaker must remain silent.
- Furthermore, the “gift of tongues” does not edify or build up the church (1 Co 14:4, 5, 12, 17, 26). As such they are never used as a medium by which God delivers a message to His church: praying, preaching, exhortation, consolation, worship or revelation are used throughout Scripture by God.
- Rather, the purpose of “tongues” is for the benefit of unbelievers (1 Co 14: 22-23). It is an affirmation for the hearers of the words (glossa) in their native language (dialekta), that God is present and is at work among human beings in a miraculous way (Acts 2: 5-11, 1 Co 14:25) It is not intended to bring conviction that leads to repentance.
- There is no clear teaching that the “gift of tongues” is a private or personal prayer language. The only verse linking the two concepts (1 Co 14:14), is a hypothetical argument by the Apostle Paul (the word “if” means the condition is not likely or probable) wherein Paul admonishes Corinthian Christians about the incongruity of a tongue-speaker using unintelligible words.
We as Elders value and encourage regular and open dialogue with the CBC family. If you have any questions or concerns about this or other topics, we invite you to connect with us.