I was once at a wonderful encounter back in 2011 for a weekend. I was enjoying it thoroughly and really left there blessed. However, at one point in time, another speaker came up to talk about salvation and the words, “If you do not have the gift of tongues it means you are not saved!” I was horrified at such an inaccurate statement. I was even more horrified that her statement was followed by a few cheers! Far too many times I have witnessed fellow Christians completely disappointed and actually depressed that they do not have this gift, and it is unnecessary that they should feel this way. I have even heard the term “second class Christians” for those who do not have this gift! It shocks me the things that come out of our mouths!
The gift of tongues is a hotly debated topic – some believe every Christian should have the gift, while others feel it is imparted only to certain Christians. I do feel some teachings on the gift of tongues is very dangerous, and I know this topic seems to get people very passionate about it, but please bear with me as I discuss why I think the gift of tongues is not for everyone.
My understanding is that we do not all receive the gift of tongues and this is from what I gain from Scripture. I have read both arguments on it as well, but if I am wrong I pray that Jesus, our Light of the world, will illuminate the truth to me.
So, we know that there are different gifts, all administered by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:4). We do not all have the gift of prophecy, we do not all have the gift of teachings, we do not all have the gift of healings etc. For me, the obvious fact that we do not all receive the gift of tongues lies in 1 Corinthians 12:11 where the Corinthian church also believed that all receive the gift of tongues. Here we see how Paul clarifies the misunderstandings the believers held about this gift:
“But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.” As He wills. The word ‘will’ here implies choice is involved and which leaves an option open for ‘not willing’.
The dictionary defines will as:
– the mental faculty by which one deliberately chooses or decides upon a course of action
– The faculty by which a person decides on and initiates action
– used to express desire, choice, willingness
Now if the Holy Spirit just gave every saved Christian the gift of tongues, why would He need to do it “as He wills”? Why would He need choice? He wouldn’t need it – He would just hand them out! So, the Holy Spirit desires that someone has the gift, He chooses who will get the gift and He has a will for particular people to get the gift.
I don’t mean to go on definition overkill but distribute means:
– administer or bestow, as in small portions
– to divide and dispense in portions
Again, here we see it is not given to a whole, but in small bits. A potion is part of a whole. So part of the church will receive this gift.
Moving on, we know that we are all one body in Christ. 1 Cor 12: 17-18 says “If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.”
The church cannot be a functioning body without its many members united together, and they are different from one another for a reason. All Christians have their specific use in the Church and each use is necessary, but each Christian has been given their own power and gift by Christ, and set in different places as He needs us. God knows where He needs us, we don’t.
A question is posed to the reader saying, “Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?” We know that not everyone has every single gift and not everyone is an apostle or prophet etc. – we are all set in place by God Himself as He needs us to be used in the Church. The fact the question is actually being asked implies a “No”. Not all speak with tongues.
Romans 12: 4-8 is a great example, “For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us”. To me, this is an obvious statement that we do not all have tongues or even the exact same spiritual gifts.
1 Cor 14:1 says, “Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy”. It does not say “especially that you may speak in tongues”. An emphasis is placed on prophecy here because it is the gift that edifies the Church and brings exhortation and comfort, whereas tongues edify yourself. Verse 12 emphasizes on this by saying, “Even so you, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the church.” If tongues were given to everyone, why would this argument even be in the Bible? Also, if we have to desire the best gifts, does that not tell you we don’t automatically have them?
14:5 states, “I wish you all spoke with tongues”, not “you all speak with tongues”. A wish by its very definition is wanting something that cannot or probably will not happen!
A gift is something that is given to someone without wanting payment in return. A gift cannot be demanded. Imagine being a guest at a birthday party and demanding, “Where’s my gift?” It wouldn’t make sense – it is not your birthday, so you have no need for the gift.
What worries me is that the ‘latest trend’ seems to be forcing yourself to start talking in tongues! This goes against scripture that repeatedly highlights the fact that we can do nothing on our own outside of God. Every good and perfect gift comes from God (James 1:17) – so if you are forcing yourself to bring on speaking in tongues, what language do you think you’re actually speaking? From God? A Heavenly one? I’m afraid not! Sounds counterfeit to me.
I know a person who, every time he speaks in tongues, makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. It does not sound as beautiful as the others. I always say listening to someone speak in tongues sounds like liquid crystal, like a beautiful song of white lilies. Does that make sense? 😀 And I feel bad, because without a doubt I cringe every time he speaks in tongues. I have prayed about it and asked the Lord what my problem was and repented for feeling like that. Yet, the other day I came to learn that when younger, he had forced himself to speak in ‘tongues’ by mumbling incoherent made up words until the tongues came!
You cannot force a gift to be given to you. Once you do, you are doing it in your own strength, and then, it is no longer a gift. How are you able to honour God by falsifying one of his precious gifts?
The most popular incident of speaking in tongues is in the Book of Acts where Christ’s disciples were observing Pentecost:
“When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” Acts 2
You cannot take one event from the Bible and generalise it. Three things come to mind – God was showing that He was adding non-Jews to the Church; two, even though the New Testament records many wonderful miracles and workings, I can only find 3 incidents of speaking in tongues (above, Acts 10:44 and Acts 19:1-4). You don’t really see NT Christians speaking in tongues; they were filled with the Holy Spirit, yes, but no further emphasis was placed on tongues.
Thirdly, after the incident Paul said, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). The emphasis here was on repenting for sins and receiving the Holy Spirit. There is no specific emphasis on tongues.
Is it not possible that God used the events above to show that He also now accepted non-Jewish people as His own? And not to tell us that every person receives the gift of tongues?
One thing is certain – that the ability to speak in tongues is not evidence of being saved! Romans 10:9 is clear on this, “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved”
In any event, perhaps the gift of tongues is a topic where Christians agree to disagree?