PART 3 TONGUES
Can What Is Expressed in the Exercise of the Gift of Tongues Be Learned?
Some believers are convinced that the tongue which is expressed in the exercise of the gift of tongues can be learned. This reminds me of a story which occurred in the earlier years of my walk with God. Not too long after I got saved, I heard about a woman, known as a faith healer, coming to appear at the main auditorium in my home city. At this time, I was passing blood and unaware of the cause, so I decided to attend this event with some of my fellow Christian friends. I don’t remember much about what this woman said, but I do remember becoming more interested in her words when she began to mention that God wanted to heal. The approach presented was that this woman would say that God was healing in certain areas of the body and anyone that had an issue in such an area should stand on their feet. The time came when she mentioned that God was healing in the area of the stomach and that if anyone had an issue in this part of the body to rise to their feet. Well, at that point, my stubbornness kicked in. I reasoned that God could heal a person whether they stood up or sat down. So, I decided to remain seated, but asked God silently in prayer to heal me. Within seconds, I sensed a tingling sensation around my stomach area which lasted for a about five seconds. I knew that this was God the Holy Spirit healing me. When the healing declarations ended, a man, possibly a pastor, took the microphone and asked if anyone would like to learn how to speak in tongues. I was aware of this gift from scripture, but was told by the pastor of the church I attended that this endowment of the Spirit was no longer operational. We were further told by this person that if anyone was interested in learning how to speak in tongues, they were told to go to a back room of the auditorium. My friends and I decided to go to this room. When we got there, we sat in the front row. After a few minutes, the small room was packed with about 100 people. After a few minutes, a man appeared and said that anyone can learn to speak in tongues. He began by declaring a sound and then asked everyone to repeat it. Then he made the initial sound with a different one following it. We were asked to repeat these two sounds. When he repeated this process a third time and asked us to repeat it, what came out of the mouths of all who were participating sounded like a room full of chickens. As I listened to what I will call the mad sounds, I began to laugh uncontrollably. This caught on to those around me. Before I knew it many of us were on the floor laughing hysterically. The man who was teaching on how to speak in a tongue, aware that he had lost control left the room with a few of us still remaining in it laughing uncontrollably. After we couldn’t laugh any more, we got up on our feet and departed the building.
This brings us back to the question that is the title of this chapter.
Can what is expressed in the exercise of the gift of tongues be learned?
If someone believes that what is expressed in the gift of tongues can be learned, then a couple of questions need to be answered. The first one is the following.
What is a gift of the Spirit?
The Gifts of the Holy Spirit1 Corinthians 12:1, 7-111 Corinthians 12:11 But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. 1 Corinthians 12:7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.
The gifts of the Holy Spirit are otherwise called spiritual endowments, extraordinary powers, or a favor which one receives without any merit of their own. Each believer is given at least one gift at salvation to be used for the edification of the church. And one more thing to note, gifts are not human talents. Talents are given at physical birth; gifts are given at spiritual birth. The names and functions of these gifts are found in Romans 12:6-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:1, 7-10, 28.
So, not only are any of the gifts of the Spirit derived from ourselves, but in regard to whether what is expressed could be learned this may also be asked in the following manner.
Does the believer have any say or control as to what is being expressed?
Acts 2:4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
An answer to this can be found when the disciples were filled with the Spirit and began to speak in tongues on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:4. What they spoke was not from themselves, but as the Spirit gave them utterance. Another way of saying this was, they spoke in other than their native tongue in foreign languages not only under the miraculous impulse of the Spirit, but as the Spirit gave them utterance (the language and the appropriate words8). This makes it pretty clear that the words of the foreign language that the disciples spoke didn’t come from themselves, but the Spirit. Based on what you have just read, we can definitively conclude that what is expressed in the exercising of the gift of tongues can’t be learned.
In the next chapter, what we will attempt to discover is the answer to this question.
When the gift of tongues is exercised, what is actually spoken?
When the Gift of Tongues Is Exercised, What Is Actually Spoken?
Now that we have discovered that a tongue spoken in the exercise of the gift of tongues is a foreign language, which the speaker does not know, but the hearers do when interpreted, then what is expressed are words in the known language of the hearers. Words about what? That’s a good question. In order to find this out, let’s take a look at scriptures where it is believed by some that the tongues spoken in the exercise of the gift of tongues were of foreign languages and see if there is any indication as to what might be said or what might the words refer to. We’ll begin by going to the book of Acts chapter 2.
Acts 2:11 Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.
While we don’t know exactly what was said however, what we do know is what it was about, which was the wonderful works of God. One of the things that the wonderful works of God could refer to are the great things God has done.
Let’s stay in the book of Acts and go to chapter 10.
Acts 10:46 For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God.
Whatever was spoken with tongues, magnified (praised; declared that God is great) God.
Please proceed to Acts chapter 19.
Acts 19:6 And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.
In this instance, these tongues expressed prophesy (to break forth under sudden impulse in lofty discourse or in praise of the divine counsels9; to speak under divine influence, and specially applied to the power of speaking in a foreign tongue10). Prophesy can also be used to speak to men (i.e. the church) for the purposes of: edification (to speak that which contains doctrine, fit to edify), exhortation (urging motives for a holy life11; strengthening), and comfort (to remove sadness12; to encourage) in 1 Corinthians 14:3.
What we have learned is that if what is said when the gift of tongues is exercised is that of a foreign language, then this can be quite varied. In this instance, what is said can be used to: declare what God has done; declare that God is great; speak that which contains doctrine, provide strengthening, and encouragement.
In the chapter that follows, we will attempt to determine if the gift of tongues is still operational today.
Is the Gift of Tongues Still in Operation Today?
There are some that believe it doesn’t matter whether the expression of the gift of tongues is in the form of a foreign language, because according to them this gift no longer exists. Likewise, there are some who believe that the gifts of the Spirit have not ceased. Let’s take a look at the varied reasons that support the idea that tongues have ceased and those reasons which say that this gift is still in operation.
I am going to present to you five different viewpoints on this matter.
The first view says that prophecies (that which is prophesied; that which speaks to the church for edification, exhortation and comfort) will come to an end; tongues will terminate on their own, without an intervening agent; and knowledge (knowledge received by immediate supernatural power) will cease. There appears to be no disclosure as to when prophecies will end, tongues will terminate on their own, or knowledge will cease. However, the proponents of this view say that the cessation of the gifts of the Spirit had occurred sometime back in history13.
1 Corinthians 13:8-10 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. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
The second view believes that when the canon of scripture was completed, there was no further need for the gifts of the Holy Spirit, because they argue that the primary purpose of the gifts was to prove the truth and divine origin of the words spoken by the apostles.
Mark 16:17-18, 20 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.
The gifts of the Spirit, in particular the gift of miracles, were used to authenticate the office gift of an apostle. These miracles had the ability to increase spiritual understanding by pointing to a spiritual reality and creating a sense of awe, resulting from supernatural power. If the gifts ceased, then the office of apostle would also have ceased.
2 Corinthians 12:12 Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.
The third view proposes that when the apostles laid hands on those who believed in Christ, it was at this time they would convey to the new converts the gift or gifts, which they were to receive from the Holy Spirit. Therefore, when the apostles died the declaration and conveyance of the gifts by means of the laying on of their hands, ended14.
Acts 19:1-4, 6 And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples, He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John's baptism. Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.
The fourth view says that the gift of tongues ceased as evidenced by the ceasing of the gift of healing. There was a man, who was crippled from birth having never walked. When he heard Paul speak, Paul perceived that he had faith to be healed. And as such he said to him, “Stand upright on your feet”, and he did as Paul said and walked.
Acts 14:8-12 And there sat a certain man at Lystra, impotent in his feet, being a cripple from his mother's womb, who never had walked: The same heard Paul speak: who stedfastly beholding him, and perceiving that he had faith to be healed, Said with a loud voice, Stand upright on thy feet. And he leaped and walked. And when the people saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in the speech of Lycaonia, The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men. And they called Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul, Mercurius, because he was the chief speaker.
However, in the book of 2 Timothy the scripture states that the apostle Paul left a person named Trophimus at a place called Miletum in the state of being sick, which according to those who believe in this view indicates that the gift of healing had ceased from being operational otherwise the apostle Paul would have laid hands on him. Therefore, when the gift of healing ceased the gift of tongues also ceased.
2 Timothy 4:20 Erastus abode at Corinth: but Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick.
The fifth view looks at reasons as to why the gifts of the Spirit have not ceased. In 1 Corinthians 12 the Holy Spirit bestowed or gave the gifts of the Spirit for the common benefit of the church. We could also say that God gives each person a gift as some proof of the Spirit's presence to be used to help the whole church15. The Holy Spirit gives a gift or gifts to each member of the body as he chooses. As the gifts become revealed to the person, who has them, along with the members of the body of Christ recognizing them, what has been created is a dependence on one another. If we believe that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are no longer operative for today, then what we are saying is that God is now only using the office gifts (e.g. apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers) in the church in order to evidence his working.
1 Corinthians 12:7, 11, 14, 25 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. For the body is not one member, but many. That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.
What do you think? Is the gift of tongues still in operation today?Now that you have a better idea as to what is the gift of tongues, what is expressed by it, and whether it has ceased to be operational, what we will take a look at next is that which is considered very controversial, prayer tongues.
Is there really such a thing as prayer tongues?
Endnotes8Vincent’s New Testament Word Studies Pc Study Bible version 5, 2005, 7 Feb. 2012 ˂http://www.biblesoft.com>.9Barnes.10Thayer.11Barnes.12Barnes.13”The Work of the Holy Spirit,” 20 March 2012 ˂ www.lwbc.co.uk>.14“Are The Gifts Of The Holy Spirit Still Active Today?,” 23 March 2012 ˂www.thywordistruth.com>.15UBS.
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