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Final Word On Tongues

Updated: Jan 10, 2020

This is our final episode on this subject.

If you haven't listened to the previous episodes on this subject, here are the links:

--- We will do some basic finalizing of comments in 1 Corinthians 14.

--- Then a brief discussion on Mark 16.

--- Finally some summary points that capture all of what we learned and taught.

Restriction and Directions in 1 Corinthians 14:

--- First of all, these are apostolic commands and therefore all are to be obeyed.  

Everything, according to verse 26, is to be done for the sole purpose of edification of the body.  You are not the purpose. Ever.

If, and this is a big if, if there is going to be tongues in the church only 2-3, and only if there is interpretation (according to verses 27-28). 

“If anyone speaks in a tongue, it should be by two or at the most three, and each in turn, and let one interpret, but if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in the church; and let him speak to himself and to God.” (1 Cor. 14:27-28)

The same restriction applies to prophecy.

There is no room in the assembled service for silliness.

There is no room for disorderliness.

There is no room for self-centeredness.

No matter what type of worship style any church has, this is a divine command that cannot be ignored. It must drive all that the church does.

Then there is this statement about women being silent in the church and to ask their husbands if there is a question. We hold that this is still part of the context of tongues and prophecy.

When a tongue is interpreted or a prophecy is given, the women were not to be the ones speaking and inquiring as to what is said.  That is for the men in the church.

A prophetic word might elicit a lot of discussion and they were not to get involved in it.  Doctrinal examination and debate belong with the men. Which is consistent with Paul’s teaching in 1 Timothy 2.

Finally Paul brings the whole thing to a close:

"If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord's commandment. But if anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized. Therefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues. But let all things be done properly and in an orderly manner."

Notice again, the term “spiritual,” because it has driven this whole thing.  Paul is pushing hard on them here. You think you hear from God? You think you are a spiritual person?  Then you will prove it by obeying, and prove that you are not, if you don’t.

These gifts are just that, gifts and they should not be forbidden.

But do it properly.

Mark 16:

Starting in verse 9 there are a lot of questions regarding what is original to the actual book.  This gets into a fascinating study on what is called textual criticism. We are not getting into this here.

What is needed to be said is that the mention of tongues in verse 17 is part of Mark that very likely was not written by Mark at all and doesn’t belong in the bible.

So, having said that, what do we do with it?  Simply, we treat it in light of the rest of the Scripture.  Everything we learned in Acts and 1 Corinthians apply here.

"And these signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it shall not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover." (Mark 16:17-18)

The idea given by those who hold that this is part of Mark, is that tongues are to be considered normative.  It is one of the signs that will be present. So again, what do we do with it?

If someone wants to use this passage to argue that believers must show evidence that they are saved by speaking in tongues, then fine. But then they must also hold to the rest of the passage as well.  They can drink poison, they will heal the sick and they can handle poisonous snakes without harm.

Note that there are no restrictions or caveats put in this passage.  Not that some might have this happen. Rather, it is normative. And so we just point out that the people arguing for tongues here are never faithful to the rest of the section and we move on. And we would counsel the same to you who are listening.

Finally, let’s give a summary of everything we have learned and taught:

--- First, Tongues is simply language and it is useful only if it is understood by a listener (as in Acts) or is interpreted.

--- Second, tongues by itself does not build up the church and therefore is of lesser value to the church.

--- Third, Tongues is not something all believers should have, nor is it ever stated that it should be normative in our lives.

--- Fourth, it holds an extremely small place in the NT and great suspicion should be present whenever it figures prominently in the life of any church.

--- Fifth, all gifts are to be viewed through the lens of how they build up the Church, not oneself.

--- Sixth, if someone wants to try to argue that their tongues speaking is some ecstatic language that is heavenly and a private prayer to God, fine. In itself it is harmless. But if they try to foist it upon a church, then they should be corrected.


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