Speaking in Tongues
post date: August 18, 2010
If by “relevant” you mean, “Could this happen today?” my answer is yes, it could happen today. I don’t think an ironclad case can be made that tongues ceased in the first century. However I see nothing in the New Testament about the gift of tongues as a mark of spiritual maturity or closeness to Christ. Even in the first century this gift was not for all Christians. It also appears to have been actual foreign languages not known to the speakers but to the hearers (Acts 1:1-13). Paul also mentions it as a sign to unbelievers (1 Corinthians 14:20-22).
On a few occasions I have heard people utter unintelligible phrases that they called the “gift of tongues.” However none of what I have heard squares with I read in the New Testament (just my personal judgment). I have no quarrel if someone says, “I have the gift of tongues.” But I do not agree with people who say, “I have the gift of tongues and you must agree that I have the gift of tongues.” I’m perfectly happy not to worry about what people do in their own private prayer times. But I do not think is is helpful for people who say they speak in tongues to evangelize for their views inside the local church. I have seen instances where that has been decidedly non-helpful. Speaking in tongues should not be made the mark of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer or evidence that someone has a closer walk with God. Over the years, I have observed many wonderful, strong, godly, Spirit-filled believers who did not speak in tongues. That would encompass most of the people I have personally known. I have also known a few to whom those adjectives apply who said they speak in tongues in private. I have no issue with that as long as someone else does not make their personal experience the standard by which they judge others, e.g. “I speak in tongues and you need to also.” Count me out on that one.
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