Christians, and some who just claim that name, often base their viewpoint about tongues upon what the Holy Scriptures state about it. Yet, among Christians, there are differing viewpoints on glossolalia, which is partly due to how one interprets the Holy Scriptures, and partly upon what their denomination or fellowship has taught them. Essentially, this latter point has roots in the former point, Bible interpretation.
Interpretation of the Holy Scriptures
Solid true Christians believe the Holy Bible is the Word of God, and that holy men of God faithfully wrote His Word as God directed them by the Holy Spirit. By faith we believe the Holy Bible, though comprised of numerous God-breathed books, speaks as one.
Knowledgeable Christians realize that the original languages in which the Word of God was recorded include Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. Most of the Old Testament was written in Hebrew with other portions being written in Aramaic. For the New Testament, His Word was recorded in Koine (common) Greek.
Thanks to the providence of God and the sacrifices of His martyrs down through the centuries, we have versions of the Holy Bible in our own languages today. While this is indeed a precious blessing, we must keep in mind that our native tongue is often not as descriptive as the ancient languages in which the Holy Word of God was recorded. This is one reason why there has been misunderstanding and misinformation about speaking in tongues. It is also the reason why I will now point something out in the Greek text regarding the move of the Holy Spirit when expressed in tongues.
Points of Clarity
Among other places in the New Testament, speaking in tongues is mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles and in 1 Corinthians. In both locations, the word “gift” is used in connection with glossolalia in most English versions. However, what many Christians do not know is that in each location a different Greek word is being used.
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In Acts, the Greek word, “dorea,” (pronounced dough – ray – ah) is used. The word “charisma” (pronounced kha – ris – mah) is used in 1 Corinthians 12 to 14 in connection with the manifestation of tongues.
Dorea essentially means “gift” as in birthday or Christmas gift. While charisma can also mean this to a degree, it can also mean, gifts with extraordinary powers, enabling Christians to serve the body of Christ. Thus, we can consider charisma (plural being charismates, pronounced khah-ris-mah-tays; or charismata, khah-ris-mah-ta) to mean “gift” as in a talent, such as a “gifted pianist” or “gifted painter.”
The distinction does not stop there. By the context of Holy Scripture, we should also note that a primary purpose of the dorea of tongues as seen in Acts was to empower the believers for ongoing external ministry — evangelism. By gentle contrast, the charisma of tongues of 1 Corinthians was to empower the Christians for ministry within the assembly of believers predominately through spiritual edification. In both cases it is the same precious Holy Spirit initially empowering the believer, but as the dorea He powers Christians to reach the non-Christians, and as the charismates He powers Christians to minister to each other.
Knowing the distinctions between these two Greek words, and an honest approach to Bible interpretation, will help to clear up some misconceptions of speaking in tongues as noted below.
1. Speaking In Tongues Is Not for Every Christian
Those who feel this way will cite passages from 1 Corinthians 12 such as “If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?” (verse 17), and “Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?” (verses 29 and 30).
However, as noted above, these passages are dealing with the charisma of tongues and not the dorea. In Acts 2, it is the dorea of the Holy Spirit manifested in speaking in tongues. In response to those that were convicted by the Holy Spirit of their need of salvation during the Apostle Peter’s message, we read in verses 38 and 39, “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.”
Later in Acts 10 we see the experience came upon all who had heard the Word of God that had gathered in Cornelius’ home.
2. Every Christian Must Speak in Tongues
This thought is partly derived by some from Mark 16:17 who also see this idea alluded to, at the very least, in passages like Acts 15:8, 2 Co. 1:22 and 5:5, and Gal. 3:2.
Mark 16:17 reads, “And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;”
Some feel so strongly about it that they would tell us that unless one speaks in tongues they cannot get to heaven.
This and verse 18 list a number of signs that would follow the believers, but nowhere is the thought that the signs must occur.
If speaking in tongues was necessary for salvation, we would see a greater effort toward that end by those who, in Acts, preached the Gospel. While the disciples did feel the reception of the dorea was an important facet for any believer as seen in Acts 19:1-7, apparently it was not a must for salvation. The Ethiopian eunuch believed and was baptized in water, but there is no record of Phillip encouraging him to experience the dorea (Acts 8:34-39). In fact, Phillip was immediately caught away by the Holy Spirit just after the water baptism. Likewise, in Acts 16:14-15, Lydia and her household were baptized in water, but there is no record of anyone assisting them into the experience of the dorea.
In regard to Acts 15:8, 19:2 and similar passages, the terminology used must be considered with other portions of the Holy Scriptures. Essentially there are times when phrases like “the gift of the spirit” are reduced by the speaker or human author to simply, “the Holy Spirit.” This does not necessarily mean that a Christian was devoid of the Holy Spirit prior to them receiving the dorea.
3. Speaking in Tongues is not for Today
1 Co. 13:8-12 is the main Scripture, and to my knowledge the only one, that some point to in order to claim that tongues is not for today, hinging that belief upon verses 8 and 10.
Most state “that which is perfect” means the Holy Bible, with the concept being that prophecy or prophesying was the means by which the written Word came, with the last book of the Holy Bible being written before 98 AD. Those who hold to this view readily claim that “tongues ceased” after the death of the last (in their thinking) Apostle.
In regard to “that which is perfect” being the Holy Bible, I would suggest to those who hold that view to carefully re-read the passage. For the sake of convenience, here is the entirety of 1 Co. 13:8-12:
“8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”
As you see in verse 9, by the Holy Spirit Paul states that at that time “we know in part,” and in verse 10, “when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.” By the Holy Spirit, he says in verse 12, “then shall I know even as also I am known.”
Though we have the completed written Word of God with us, do we still not know only in part? Most growing Christians will comment that though they have read the Word of God over and over again, there is always something new and fresh, something they had not seen before. New people commit to Christ each day, and though the written Word is completed, these new ones, of course, know in part.
With this and other points, it is clear we have not reached the condition described in verse 12. I am of the opinion “that which is perfect” refers to New Jerusalem, that city built foursquare, as described in Revelation 21 and 22.
Also, the gifts of the Holy Spirit did not suddenly stop after the last of the original apostles died. They were certainly diminished because sin was creeping into the Church. We also must keep in mind that between persecutions and squabbles over doctrine, written documents were either destroyed due to the former or, referring to the latter, dealt with the pressing matters at hand.
Another point is this. Ask most Christians and they will tell you we are in the last days. The Word in Joel and Acts states God’s Spirit would be poured out in the last days, and this statement is undeniably tied with the outpouring of the Spirit manifested in the dorea in Acts 2 and 10. If Peter by the Spirit affirmed the time he was living in was “the last days,” what time are we living in? It is apparent from our Lord’s discourse in Matthew 24 and similar passages that we are still in the last days.
4. If Someone Speaks in Tongues This is a Sign They are a Christian
Those that feel this way should remember our Lord Himself warned us about false signs and wonders (Mt. 24:24) as did Paul by the Holy Spirit (2 Th. 2:9). We need to keep in mind that satan (I avoid capitalizing that name) himself can appear as an angel of light (2 Co. 11:14) and that a miracle shall be involved with the Antichrist (Rev. 13:3, 12, and 14).
Logically, speaking in tongues can be easily faked. However, that does not mean the genuine experience does not exist. Remember that the Lord said we can tell by a person’s fruits (Mt. 7:16-20), not necessarily their gifts.
5. One Must Always Follow the Rules as Set Forth in 1 Corinthians 14
This is true for the charismata, but there is a different situation involved with the dorea. In Acts 10, all that heard the Word of God were blessed with the dorea and there is no record that there were only two or, at the most, three who spoke in tongues, which is also true for the crowd of believers in Acts 2.
6. It Was A Miracle Of Hearing and Not Speaking
Those who think this use Acts 2:8-11 but ignore 2:4 which clearly states, “And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” The last phrase clearly indicates it was a miraculous utterance, and the Holy Spirit was the origin of it.
7. They Spoke In Languages They Already Knew
Let us look at Acts 2:4 again. They spoke with other tongues. The Greek for “other” is heteros which can mean, “of another kind,” an indication that each miraculously spoke a language not previously learned by them.
8. Tongues Must Always Be Interpreted
While this is the ideal for the charisma of tongues (1 Co. 12 – 14), there were no interpretations recorded in Acts 10. Also, in Acts 2, despite the fact that numerous known languages were miraculously spoken, apparently there were some languages unknown to all present and that seemed like it was not an earthly language at all. Acts 2:13 states, “Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine,” implying, in the least, some heard utterances that seemed like jibber. We see in 1 Co. 13:1 angels have languages so, to my mind, Acts 2:13 could indicate that some believers were speaking in angelic languages.
9. A Christian May Speak in Tongues, But Not in Church
Those who think this are usually taking the words of Paul by the Holy Spirit in 1 Co. 14:19 out of context with the rest of the chapter. While in that verse he said by the Spirit “Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue,” he also indicated that the charisma of tongues should be permitted (verse 27). 1 Co. 12:7-11 also shows that the charisma of tongues should be part of the church assembly like the other charismata of the Holy Spirit.
Also, with all the directives about the flow of Christian meeting, Paul did say by the Holy Spirit (1 Co. 14:39), “Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues.” The charisma of tongues is perfectly acceptable in the church meetings, as was the dorea as seen in Acts.
Considering Acts 2 and 10, it is apparent that the dorea may move upon the congregation of true believers as God sees fit.
Do Not Quench It
While not every Christian is used in the charisma of tongues, Peter speaking by the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, stated that the dorea, which was promised by the Father (Acts 1:4), was for whoever would commit to Christ: “For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” Acts 2:39
Every true Christian already has the Holy Spirit dwelling within them. However, the Scriptures indicate we are to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18) and, amen, filled to overflowing (John 7:38).
If you are a true Christian I am sure you sincerely desire all the grace that God has for you. You still may have some reservations about glossolalia and, if so, I thank you for reading through this article. I encourage you to prayerfully conduct your own Bible study on the matter and gently suggest that if you do, you will find that all you read will point to the fact that the dorea (Acts 2 and 10) is for all, which includes you.
If you are not a Christian, I encourage you to come to personally know the Father of the promise by committing your life to His Son, Jesus Christ, making Him King in your life.
“Quench not the Spirit.”–1 Thessalonians 5:19