That’s what a friend asked the other day. To which I lightly said does redneck count before explaining that no I never learned a foreign language. “But they’re one of the spiritual gifts…” Yes they WERE a spiritual gift at the beginning of the dispensation of grace with a very specific purpose and role. One that was often abused even then. But Let’s see what saith the scriptures because God’s word is our final authority not men’s traditions or even our experiences because those are subjective. Two or 3 people can experience the exact same thing and have different versions of that event. So we have to let God’s word be our standard for understanding any subject it speaks on. In this case tongues in scripture are very different from what men claim they are today.
When we look up all the occurrences of the word tongue in scripture we see that the first instance in in Genesis 10:20 and says:
These are the sons of Ham, after their families, after their tongues, in their countries, and in their nations.
Obviously that talking about languages. In fact the word tongues occurs 36 times in the bible and in most of those it means language the rest refer to either an actual tongue of the body or as a figure of speech describing fire. Including in Acts 2 where we first see the Holy Ghost connected or involved in the speaking of other tongues.
And when the day of Pentecost was 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 all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marveled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galileans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.
Acts 2:4, 6, and 11 all show that the tongues given by the Holy Ghost were actual literal spoken languages of other countries – we even get the list of countries the Jews and proselytes were from. The Holy Ghost had given them the ability to speak in languages other than their own so that they could share with the Jews gathered in Jerusalem for Pentecost how they could enter the coming kingdom of heaven on earth with Jesus whom they had just killed as their Messiah.
But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words:
Okay so let’s skip to 1 Corinthians where many churches and religions try to say that the languages it has meant up to this is suddenly a secret al language that only God and possibly someone with the gift of interpretation can understand but is often used to convey a message or word from God they claim.
Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy. For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries. But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort. He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.
1 Corinthians 14:1-4
Wow – he that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifith himself. That doesn’t sound like what they claim, the mention of spirit here is not saying it as a desireable thing since it is only God who underrstands it not the people around the speaker who are supposed to be being edified. And if we continue reading we see that without an interpreter of that langauge tongues are not to be desired and are just spoken to the air as empty words. God doesn’t need for us to have a secret or special spiritual language to speak to him since he dwells in us and thus knows our every thought. In addition the Holy Spirit makes intercession for us when we don’t know how to pray – no secret spiritual language uttered aloud required.
Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
But just to be sure lets keep reading
I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying. Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine? And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped? For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air.
1 Corinthians 14:5-9
Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.
1 Corinthians 14:19
Again its referring to spoken languages not secret spiritual ones no one understands and it actually says that prophesying and teaching is more desirable. Which is really all that speaking in tongues is for. But in the case of the Corinthians and today the speakers aren’t given the gift by God because God wouldn’t give it without an interpreter or without it edifying the assembly.
How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying. If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret. But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.
1 Corinthians 14:26-28
In fact when we really look at it we see that the whole purpose of tongues and the other spiritual gifts was to teach the church in part until that which is perfect had come and then they would cease. Stop because they were no longer needed by the church today.
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. 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. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
1 Corinthians 13:1-13
That which is perfect is the BIBLE – the completed word of God written down for men today to study and understand God’s plan and purpose. We don’t need spiritual gifts now because everything God wanted to say to us during the dispensation of grace is contained in the pages of that book. Now we are to put away the in part, the childish immature things that were past and move forward seeing the whole picture in Gods written word. Today we don’t need signs or spiritual gifts or secret languages we have better things, completion. We walk by faith not by sight.
(For we walk by faith, not by sight:)
2 Corinthians 5:7