Common beliefs about speaking in unknown tongues are some of the most contorted and misinterpreted beliefs in the Christian church. Many Christians form their understanding about speaking in unknown tongues upon their misinterpreted personal experiences, feelings and imaginations, or upon the sincere but non-biblical beliefs of someone they admire and trust. The one authority by which all our beliefs and opinions must align is the Bible. If what we believe does not agree with what the Bible says, then we have strayed from truth. When we place trust in emotions and experience without a Biblical foundation, speaking in tongues can evolve into ecstatic laughter, rolling in the aisles, and spiritual gymnastics reminiscent of a Blues Brothers movie.
People say some crazy things about speaking in unknown tongues. I provided a list of things the Bible shows us about this phenomenon in a recent sermon.
1. Speaking in tongues is not seen in the life and experience of Jesus.
2. Only in 1 Corinthians 3:1 do we find unknown tongues and that church is described as “babes in Christ.” It was a church filled with problems and disorder.
3. At Pentecost the tongues were not unknown but languages of the nationalities who were present.
4. Tongues are not a church-building gift. 1 Corinthians 14:2-3
5. Tongues are not the best gift. 1 Corinthians 14:1-12
6. Spiritual gifts are given to us by the Holy Spirit at conversion and only He chooses which gift is given. 1 Corinthians 12:7-11
I mentioned other problems with speaking in tongues in my recent sermon including the fact that tongues are easily counterfeited and difficult if not impossible to authenticate. After my message, the pastor (one who claims the gift of tongues) commented. He said, “it is true that tongues are easily counterfeited, but for every counterfeit there is a true speaker in tongues.” There we go. Making a claim that simply is not in agreement with scripture. It is more likely, based on Paul’s instructions regarding the Spirit’s distribution of spiritual gifts, that for every one million counterfeit unknown tongue utterances there may be one that is a Holy Spirit prompted utterance.
Unfortunately for many Christians, worship is all about fabricating a highly emotional, ecstatic experience that they believe provides evidence of the Holy Spirit’s presence. They believe that unknown tongues are a necessary part of that evidence. They forget that the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) is the true evidence and Christians are to walk by faith not sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). But, who am I fooling. All of this only matters to Christians if God’s Word matters.