The gift of speaking in tongues refers to the spiritual gift of either speaking another language such as the disciples at Pentecost did (Acts 2) or speaking a language otherwise unknown, which must be interpreted. Both speaking in tongues and the gift of healing were prevalent in the apostolic era. Since that time, both gifts seem to be less prevalent.
The necessity of these gifts
One possible reason for this is that those gifts have served their purpose and are unnecessary now. In a way, these gifts were the baby teeth of the church. Are you glad you had baby teeth? Absolutely! Those teeth enabled you to function and saved space for your future permanent teeth. They were necessary for a time and purpose but are no longer needed. Now you have something that serves you better in your adulthood: adult teeth.
These particular spiritual gifts served a wonderful purpose: to confirm the message of the apostles. Once God enabled their words to be recorded and those writings were gathered and recognized as Scripture, those gifts were not as necessary. The writer to the Hebrews says, “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son” (1:1,2).
Read 1 Corinthians 14:1-25.
The church at Corinth placed an unhealthy emphasis on the importance of speaking in tongues.
What truths about tongues would you use to answer someone that says, “In order to receive the full gospel, you have to speak in tongues”?
A number of answers could be drawn from this reading.
1. Understand that the word prophecy is a broad term that means preaching, teaching, and proclaiming, not just telling the future. It is specifically the proclamation of the gospel and the truths of God in intelligent language. Paul says that is for strengthening, encouraging, and comfort.
2. Speaking in tongues—unless it is a recognizable language like Spanish or Korean—needs an interpreter for the hearer in the language to understand. Unless there is interpretation, then “you will just be speaking into the air” (v. 9).
3. Understanding God’s truth is more important than speaking in tongues. Rather speak 5 intelligible words than 10,000 words in an unintelligible tongue.
4. Speaking in tongues is not for outreach or evangelism. To the outsider, speaking in tongues gives the impression that those who require it are “out of [their] mind” (v. 23).
The insistence on miracles
The gifts of tongues and healing are flashy spiritual gifts. Some people insist on the necessity of finding miracles in their lives to give them assurance while others insist that God no longer performs miracles.
Read Genesis 18:14; 1 Kings 19:5-8; Mark 1:40; Acts 14:3; 2 Thessalonians 2:9.
List the misunderstandings of both of these opinions about miracles.
- To those who insist on the necessity of miracles.
Certainly, God can do miracles and has done so, but the miracles confirmed the promises of God in Jesus. The message of the gospel is paramount. It is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16). Miracles can come from God, but they can also come from Satan. We depend on the Word for truth.
- To those who insist that God no longer performs miracles.
God can perform miracles. Believers have prayed for them and in some cases have received them. Medical professionals cannot explain why they have occurred. But God does not promise such miracles. He dispenses them by his grace according to his will.
How do we know?
How do we know what are truly the gifts of speaking in tongues or healing today? Even if those gifts are genuine, it does not automatically assure the validity of the message. God tells us that the devil is capable of performing lying miracles (2 Thessalonians 2:9). In addition, Scripture does not ask us to judge the truth of miracles, but the message. God says, “Consult God’s instruction and the testimony of warning. If anyone does not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn” (Isaiah 8:20). Someone has said of some who claim tongues, “I am not concerned about what people say in tongues. It is what they say in English that concerns me.”
Read John 8:31,32 and 1 John 4:1-3.
What questions could you ask someone who claims to have miraculous gifts like speaking in tongues or healing?
I would want to know what that person believes about the truths of the Bible. It is the truth of God’s Word that determines what to believe and not to believe. Miracles can be counterfeit and can come from Satan. Not all miracles prove God’s truth but may be used to promote false teaching that draws us away from the one thing needed—faith in Jesus.
Author: David Scharf
Volume 109, Number 07
Issue: July 2022
- Psalm 103: When you count your blessings
- Psalm 91: When God lifts you up on his lap
- Psalm 4: When you draw nearer to the end
- Psalm 42: When you ask, “Where is God when I’m hurting?”
- Psalm 32: When you need forgiveness
- Psalm 130: When rocks fall
- Bible study: Freedom in service
- What does this mean for me? Article 6
- Bible study: Spiritual gifts
- What does this mean for me? Article 5
- What does this mean for me? Article 4
- Bible study: Rejoice in your status!
- Bible study: Baptismal blessings
- What does this mean for me? Article 3
- What does this mean for me? Article 2
- Bible study: Gifts of tongues and miraculous healing
- What does this mean for me? Article 1
- Bible study: Jesus is everyone’s Savior
- Bible study: Love one another
- Bible study: Above all things!
- Bible study: The comfort of God’s providence
- The book of James: Waiting for Christ’s return
- Bible study: Precious grace
- The book of James: Active in using prayer
- Bible study: Rewards of grace
- The book of James: Active in showing love
- The book of James: Correctly evaluating riches
- Bible study: What’s going to happen on the Last Day?
- The book of James: Avoiding loveless judging
- Bible study: Interpretation practice
- The book of James: Taming the tongue
- Bible study: The Bible’s attributes
- Bible study: The importance of the family altar
- Bible study: God’s attitude is grace
- Bible study: The Bible’s account of Easter morning
- Bible study: Different types of sin
- Bible study: God’s inspiration
- Bible study: Giving God glory
- Bible study: Judge for yourself
- The book of James: Using the Word of Truth
- Bible study: The need for the Bible and worship
- Bible study: Citizens of two kingdoms
- The book of James: Active in good works
- The book of James: When battling temptation
- Bible study: God cares
- Bible study: God made the world
- The book of James: When facing trials
- Bible study: A loving God saved people from hell
- The book of James: A blueprint for living out our life of faith
- A Bible story just for me: Guilt
- Bible study: God provides victory over death!
- A Bible story just for me: Anxiety
- Bible study: God forgives and refuses to remember our sins
- A Bible story just for me: Grief
- Bible study: God helps those who cannot help themselves
- A Bible story just for me: Depression
- Bible study: God has not grown soft on sin
- Bible study: Only one path leads to God’s presence
- A Bible story just for me: Trauma
- A Bible story just for me
- Bible study: God wants me in heaven
- Bible study: The incarnation of our Lord