Tongues in the Bible
1 Cor. 14:1-40
The Corinthian church was in every sense in the world carnal. They lacked in no gift, yet they were
immature and lacking in love that is why Paul have to write a whole chapter just to teach them
about love. The gifts, which the Corinthians esteemed most highly, mainly the gift of tongues, were
those which Paul referred to as the lesser gift. Sadly, Charismatics and the Pentecostals puts too
much emphasis about the gift of tongues which cause them to commit errors worse than the
Corinthian Christians. Today we will take a look at some Biblical truths about tongues.
I. Follow after Charity. (1 Cor. 14:1a)
A. The word follow here means to pursue, press forward. Earnestly seek love. Pursue
1. Because Love is a command for every believer, a command for all of us.
2. Because Spiritual gifts have little value apart from love. Spiritual gifts do not
abide, while love does. Love is even superior to faith and hope, which do abide.
The teaching of the entire Old Testament and of our Lord Jesus Christ can be
summed up by one word, love.
3. Love is eternal (I Cor. 13:13). It is the “more excellent way” (I Cor. 12:31). Seek it
above all gifts.
II. Desire Spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 14:1b-3))
A. The word “desire” means to “to have warmth of feeling for, to covet, be zealous.
B. We should desire to have spiritual gifts and then we are to use those gifts with all
C. The Corinthian’s were seeking after the showy gifts or the spectacular gifts. It was
their selfish carnal desires to seek and to have the attention-getting gifts to be
popular and look spiritual to the congregation.
D. Paul says they should desire prophecy. Prophecy here means fore telling and forth
telling. Prophecy is far more important than speaking in tongues because everybody
can understand it and it’s for edification, and exhortation, and comfort
III. Important terms or definition of words
A. Glossa – is found 50 times in the Greek NT and is translated “tongues”. 15 times, it
refers to the organ of the body (Jas. 3:5). One time it refers to the tongues “like as of
fire” on the Day of Pentecost. In the other 33 places it refers to human languages as
in Rev. 10:11 …” before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings.”
B. Unknown tongues – the word “unknown” was not found in the Greek NT. It was
supplied by the translators of the KJV that is why it is written in italics. Tongues are
called “unknown” in the King James Version because they are languages that the
speaker has never learned.
C. Interpret – In 1 Cor. 14: 13 is in Greek “diermeneuo” which literally means “to
translate”. Out of the 21 occasions in the NT, eighteen times it definitely refers to
D. Language – In Greek it was “dialektos” where we get our English word dialect. Used
as reference to human languages.
E. “Tongues of…angels – What kind of language do angels speak? While talking to men
on earth, they speak Hebrew (Gen. 19) and Greek (Lk. 1). Even during their heavenly
ministry, they spoke languages which were understandable to men. (Isa. 6, Rev. 4-5).
F. From the above definitions you can already see the errors of the Tongues
IV. Tongues in the Bible
A. Acts 2 – Pentecost – It is very clear here that the Galileans were speaking in known
languages. Unbelieving Jews who were in Jerusalem at that time were amazed
“because that every man heard them speak in his own language”. (Acts 2:6-7). Luke
went on to say that there were some 16 different countries and areas whose
languages were being spoken. (Acts 2:8-11). Unbelievers present at Pentecost heard
God’s message proclaimed in their own local dialects. Every tongue that was
spoken and heard of was a known language. There were no “unknown tongue”. We
can also clearly say that those who spoke in tongues did not all speak at the same
time, or no one will understand what they were saying. Such simple and clear
description could not apply to ecstatic speech as practiced by the Pentecostals and
B. Acts 10:34-48 – At the house of Cornelius – Peter the Apostle was sent to a Roman
Centurion to tell him how to be saved (Acts 11:14). When he preached the gospel to
them, (Cornelius and his household), they believed and were saved. At that very
moment they received the “gift of the Holy Ghost” and began to “speak in tongues
and magnify God”. (Acts 10:45-46). They did not pray for, ask for, or even long for
the gift of tongues. The truth is probably, they had never heard of the gift of tongues
C. Acts 19:1 – 7 – In the City of Ephesus, 12 men who have received the baptism of
John the Baptist. When Paul preached, these people believed and were saved. When
Paul laid his hand upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with
tongues and prophesied”. They did not seek to speak in tongues as the Pentecostals
and the Charismatics do.
V. Biblical Truths
A. Tongues were real human languages. It’s that plain and simple. They are not
gibberish but human languages. What comes from the tongues of Pentecostals and
Charismatics are not true languages. If they are not true languages then they are
counterfeit, and are not the Biblical gift of tongues. Pentecostals and Charismatics
do not be offended. This is the truth as the Word of God tells.
B. Biblical tongues were a sovereignly-given miraculous gift (1 Cor. 12:7-11). Tongues
speaking cannot be worked up or learned. Pentecostals and Charismatics are
teaching their members how to speak in tongues. There is nowhere in the Bible
where you found somebody teaching or coaching a learner to speak in tongues.
C. Tongues-speaking was a sign to the nation Israel.
1. In the day of Pentecost, it was a sign for the Jews who seeks after a sign (1 Cor.
2. They serve to communicate and to evangelize the foreign-born Jews who were
at Jerusalem at that time for the feast.
3. At the house of Cornelius, the speaking of tongues was given as a sign to the
seven Jews present that God was also concerned about the Gentiles. When
these Jews returned to the Jerusalem Church, they testified about what God had
done to the Gentiles (Acts 11). They did not call this event a Gentile Pentecost,
and those who do so today are committing a very big mistake
D. No more mention of tongues in the Bible after the abuse of tongues in Corinth were
mentioned. 1 Corinthian were written in 57 A.D. The last book in the NT, the Book of
Revelation were written in 96 A.D. yet no more mention about the gift of tongues.
From that year to the year 1900 you will not find any Christians speaking in Tongues.
Indeed, tongues have ceased (1 Cor. 13:8). The problem now are the groups who are
seeking experiences, visions and feelings rather than the truth in the Word of God.
E. Speaking in tongues is not the evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This wrong
idea is clearly refuted in 1 Cor. 12:13, Rom. 6:3, 4, Col. 2:9-12, Eph. 4:5, Gal. 3:27-
F. The fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22,23) does not include speaking in tongues.
Therefore, Christlikeness does not require speaking in tongues. Significantly, many
of the other New Testament books speak a great deal about the Holy Spirit, but fail
to even mention speaking in tongues.
G. There are more important gifts than tongues, and these are to be sought (1
Corinthians 12:28, 31).
H. The purpose of Tongues
1. To validate the authority of the Apostles and early Christians
2. To demonstrate God’s judgment upon unbelieving Israel. (Isa. 28:11-12, Jer.
5:15, 1 Cor, 14:21). In Isa. 28 the Northern Kingdom was destroyed. Isaiah
warned the Southern kingdom that the same thing will happen to them if they
do not repent. They did not listen to him. Isaiah told them since they would not
listen when God spoke to them in Hebrew, they would when God will speak to
then through the enemy soldiers in Assyrian language.
3. To serve as a sign to seeking but unsaved Jews.
4. To impart new truths before the completion of the canon of the Bible.
VI. Regulation of Tongues (1 Cor. 14:3-25)
A. Prophecy is more edifying than tongues (I Cor. 14:3)
B. Speaking in Tongues helps no Christian in the Church (1 Cor. 14:3-4). Speaking in a
known tongue helps all (1 Cor. 14:3-4).
C. The tongue, like a musical instrument is useless unless heard and understood (1 Cor.
D. Five words that can be understood are better than ten thousand words that could
not be understood (1 Cor. 4:19)
E. Tongues were sign not only to the Jews but to unbelievers and it is not for the
enjoyment of the believer. (1 Cor. 14:22).
F. Gibberish flowing from the mouth will only confuse the unlearned and they will turn
them away from the truth (1 Cor. 14:23).
G. Preaching not tongues is God’s method for saving the lost (1 Cor. 14:24-25)
H. Tongue speaking was to be limited in number, with each to speak in turn (1 Cor.
14:27). Modern tongue movements ignore this over and over again.
I. If there was no one present who could interpret (translate) every word to every
person in the audience, then they could not speak in tongues (1 cor. 14:28)
J. There was to be no confusion in the service, for “God is not the author of confusion
(1 Cor. 14:33). Confusion best describes many modern-day meetings when they
speak in tongues.
K. Women are not to speak in the churches, either in tongues or regular language (1
Cor. 14:34-35). It is a well-known fact that the tongue movements today allow
women talking in tongues and preaching. Whatever they are doing in this respect,
you may be sure that it is not of God.
L. All things were to be done decently and in order (1Cor. 14:40)
There’s a lot more to say but time and space will not allow me to do it. If speaking in
tongues today are unscriptural why then are so much emphasis on this subject? The
possible answers are:
1. It is from God – we have proven here that it is not
I do believe that the reason for speaking in tongues is one of the last three listed