Speaking in Tongues
The Holy Spirit | Speaking in Tongues
"And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance." (Acts 2:4).
Speaking in tongues (called glossalalia from the Greek glossais lalo) was considered by the early church as a sign accompanying the baptism in the Holy Spirit. This biblical pattern for the Spirit-filled life is still valid for us today (Acts 2:39).
Speaking in tongues is a supernatural manifestation of the Holy Spirit. The Bible records that the disciples spake in other tongues "as the Spirit gave them utterance." The believer speaks in a language he has never learned - it may be an existing human language or a language unknown to man. It is not gibberish, but a true language unknown to the speaker. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13:1, "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." (see also 1 Corinthians 14:12-14).
Speaking in tongues is also described as a gift given by the Holy Spirit to the believer. This gift of the Spirit has two main purposes: 1) Speaking in tongues accompanied by interpretation is used in corporate worship services to communicate the content of the utterance to the congregation in order that all may be edified. This is a solemn and humbling occasion as the Spirit is speaking through a person to the body in order to give encouragement, instruction, or rebuke. Paul stated in 1 Corinthians 14:5, "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."
Speaking in tongues is also used in times of private prayer or devotion to God and strengthens one's spiritual life. Paul wrote, "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... He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself." (1 Corinthians 14:2,4). Paul added in 1 Corinthians 14:15, "I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also."
False Speaking in Tongues
It must be noted that the mere occurrence of speaking in tongues, or any other supernatural manifestation, is not absolute evidence of the work and presence of the Holy Spirit, nor is it a sign of God's approval on what is taking place. Speaking in tongues can be counterfeited by human initiative or demonic influence. John gives us a solemn warning in his first epistle, "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world." (1 John 4:1-3).
In these last days, the Spirits warns us explicitly that there will be apostasy in the church, and many will depart from faith and give heed to seducing spirits (1 Timothy 4:1-2). Jesus Christ warned us that many will come in His name, performing counterfeit signs and wonders, and disguising themselves as servants of God. Jesus stated, "Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." (Matthew 7:22-23). If someone claiming to speak in tongues is not living a life of holiness, is not committed wholly to Christ, and is not attempting to walk in obedience to God's Word, whatever manifestations he or she may display are not the work of the Holy Spirit.
Clearly, the supernatural manifestation of tongues is "as the Spirit gives the utterance." It cannot be taught - it is not a learned phenomenon nor can it be taught by instructing believers to speak incoherent syllables or phrases. And as always, any manifestation of the Spirit is to edify the person or the church and ultimately to glorify Christ. A sign of falsity is when the emphasis is place on anything other than the Lord Jesus, or if a person or ministry receives the glory and praise of men above Christ. Believers in the early church were continually aware and conscious of the Spirit's presence, power, and guidance. Conversely, any assumed baptism in the Spirit that does not increase our awareness of the presence of the Holy Spirit, increase our desire to obey His leading, and reinforce our goal to live before Him in such a way as not to grieve or quench the Spirit, is not from God.
When someone has been genuinely baptized in the Holy Spirit, their love for Jesus Christ and desire for Him will be magnified. Their love and hunger for God's Word will increase. Their love and concern for the body will grow, and their desire to witness and to help others will increase. Finally, their desire for holiness and their hatred for sin will increase. Now more than ever, Christians must examine and prove all things or people alleging to be of the Holy Spirit. God does not call us to judge others, but He did call us to be fruit inspectors - "by their fruits ye shall know them." (Matthew 7:20). Paul instructs us in 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22, "Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil." (see also Ephesians 4:30).