Speaking in Tongues



When you leave a cult you end up in some funny places, in my opinion it is hard to convert to Biblical Christianity when you thought you already were one.  One of the things I got caught up in was Pentecostal theology.  Specifically Assemblies of God, which to be honest is a pretty solid Christian denomination.  They teach law and gospel from the Bible and stick to mainline American Evangelical teaching in most respects.

That said, I do believe that they and others have err’ed in their teachings on a few important things.  One of them is the modern manifestation of the gift of tongues.  In this post I am going to present an abbreviation of this teaching from the primary texts that they use and then provide a sound response.  Since I am able to argue both positions I think the reader might find value in this post.

The Affirmative

I am going to present how the charismatic movement Biblically argues for the modern manifestation of the gift of tongues.  If you want to double check my analysis my primary sources for this particular piece are the following:

  1. Assemblies of God Website
  2. Foundations of Pentacostal Theology

The primary Biblical sources for this doctrine is found in 1 Corinthians 14 and Acts 2.  I am not going to paste the whole chapters due to length but feel free to take a moment to read both if you like.

In Acts 2 the verses that are accentuated are the following:

“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 KJV

“Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” Acts 2:38 KJV

The argument here is that the referent to the gift of the Holy Ghost spoken of in verse 38 is the manifestation we see in verse 4.  Specifically, they teach that the gift one receives after baptism in water is the baptism of fire in the Holy Ghost.  They will typically back this up with a verse from Matthew:

“indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fireMatt 3:11 KJV

When one argues from 1 Corinthians 14 things get more complicated.  This is because there is alot more to work with in this chapter.  In fact, when I believed in this doctrine this was my go to chapter and it was primarily due to the following verse:

He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.” 1 Cor 14:4 KJV

In my opinion that is the strongest verse in support of the modern manifestation of the gift of tongues.  This is because Paul uses the term “unknown tongue’.  The argument goes that there are different manifestations of tongues, those that are when one speaks in another earthly language and can be understood (Acts 2:11), and those that are of a heavenly language and are “unknown” thus they need a translator  (1 Cor 14:28).

Above I have put forward what I consider to be the best arguments from scripture, I have not covered every nuance as such a task is lengthy and unnecessary.  If you want my analysis on a specific verse not mentioned though feel free to drop it in the comments and we can go over it together.

Allow me to be honest, the above is not really a bad argument.  In fact I am more accustomed to debunking really obvious errors so this one is trickier.  In fact, I would say that this isn’t heresy at all.  I would classify the belief in the modern manifestation of the gift of tongues as heterodoxy rather than heresy.  It is something that we are free to disagree on, and after careful study I do believe that this belief is greatly mistaken.  Keep reading if you want to see why.

The Negative

The biggest problem with this doctrine is that they eisegete their material principle.  Which is assuming that the modern manifestation they speak of is actually taught in scripture.  Every time you read the verses I posted above you have to assume it is speaking of what we see on TBN.  In truth, there is no guide for such things in the Bible at all.  If you want to learn how to speak in tongues the way that it is taught today you need to buy a book or ask someone in your charismatic church to teach you.  I will save you the time and money and just break it down for you here and now.

You are supposed to clear your mind, meditate on a verse or something like that and start to pray.  At any time as you are “moved” you may then simply speak.  The words are not to cross through your logical mind they are just supposed to flow out of your mouth.  It takes a while to practice that disconnect as speaking in such a fashion is not typical but it can be done.

That’s it really, and the reason I cannot post clear scripture to teach you how to do this is because there is none.  There is only one verse I can think of that even half way describes such a thing and that is here:

“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.” Rom 8:26 KJV

And the problem with the above verse being applied to the manifestation we see being taught today is that it doesn’t say we are the ones doing the groanings.  Instead it says the Spirit is the one doing it, and it doesn’t say through us as it clearly identifies the “Spirit itself maketh” and then follows with the verb “intercession”.  The prayer is never identified as a medium in this transaction.  There is no getting around that.  With this understanding of the above passage we wouldn’t even know if this is happening or not, we just trust in faith that intercession is transpiring on our behalf.  I find this verse very comforting because I know that God is speaking for me.

Clearly the teaching cannot be exegeted out of scripture, instead they have assembled verses that can be easily eisegeted to fit what it is that they are practicing.  That simply isn’t how theology works and we need to be intellectually honest with that.  Just to prove my point though I am going to review every verse posted above and show what is really going on in the text.

“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 KJV

“Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” Acts 2:38 KJV

The problem with arguing that the referent of the gift of the Holy Ghost in verse 38 is verse 4 is that the manifestation of verse 4 is defined in verse 11.  That is, they were speaking in human languages.  I would instead argue that the actual referent of “gift” is the Holy Ghost.  Wow look how that works!  We can see this in other verses where the Holy Ghost is identified as sealing us unto redemption.

In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,   Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory. Eph 1:13-14 KJV


Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts. 2 Cor 1:21-22 KJV


And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Eph 4:30 KJV

Notice we see this Gift of the Holy Ghost being associated with Baptism too.  I would argue that this promise is that we receive the Holy Ghost in Baptism as a work of God upon us.  For more on this please click HERE.  Even if you reject that though, it cannot be argued soundly that the gift received in Acts 2:38 is tongues, the gift IS God the Holy Ghost himself.


The second error in this brand of Pentecostal theology is that it teaches a second baptism.  Some charismatics will soften this by instead calling it a second blessing, but they still use the verses employed by the originators of Pentecostal theology to argue for a second baptism.  And once you remove that their teaching loses its Biblical foundation.  Allow me to demonstrate:


“There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;

One Lord, one faith, one baptism,” Eph 4:4-5 KJV


I would argue that the above passage is rather clear.  There are not two baptisms, only one.  So to teach a second baptism is fallacious, even if one couches it as a “second blessing”.  The verse that they primarily use to teach a second baptism, which I also posted above, is found here:


“indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire” Matt 3:11 KJV


They say that the manifestation of tongues is a baptism of fire.  Many call this being “slain in the spirit”.  What they are doing is eisegeting their personal experiences into the text that they take out of context.  If you read the very next verse Matthew actually explains what he means by being baptized with fire:


“Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” Matt 3:12 KJV


That’s right, the baptism of fire is Hell.  You don’t receive two baptisms, you get one or the other.  You are either baptized into the death burial and Resurrection of Christ, or you are baptized in the eternal conscious torment of Hell.  Which do you want to be baptized in?  This is a really stupid verse to use for their theology, the only thing one has to do is read the very next verse.


They teach fire as a burning in one’s bosom, a feeling of intensity to the point where one is knocked over.  That is not the baptism of fire, Hell is.  This is why you don’t use your personal experiences to interpret scripture, you only rely on the scripture itself.


I almost don’t have to address 1 Corinthians 14, as I demonstrated above they eisegete their material principle anyways and rely on a poor proof-texting methodology that takes scripture out of context.  That being the case, I will still address the verse that caused me to believe in this doctrine.  As I stated above that is 1 Cor 14:4 KJV.


“He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.” 1 Cor 14:4 KJV


It was the words “unknown tongue” that hooked me on this teaching.  The problem is that this text doesn’t require “unknown” to mean Glossolalia or anything like that.  It can more easily mean speaking in a foreign language that nobody else in the room knows.  In fact that would be a much more logical rendering of the passage anyways as Paul insists that they have a translator (1 Cor 14:27-28).  It also makes sense that he wants them to prophecy for edification of the body as they didn’t have a complete New Testament yet, this was how they received the Word of God.


That one kinda hit me like a ton of bricks.  And it would make sense that Paul would want everyone to be able to do this (1 Cor 14:5 KJV) as it is a gift of the Holy Spirit that helped move the gospel so quickly across the world in their day to every tongue.




Is it sinning to practice the modern teaching of speaking in tongues?  I believe it is mistaken but I don’t believe it is a sin.  If you view it as a personal prayer language, as in praying directly from the heart, I don’t see that there is anything really wrong with that.  With such a definition it is no different than Hannah praying her heart out in front of the temple. (1 Sam 1:13 KJV).

With that said, I would advise not to deceive yourself or others by referring to it as the New Testament gift of tongues.  Furthermore I would not rely on it as a sole or even primary practice of prayer either.  After all, what does the Bible say comes out of the human heart?

“But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.  For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:” Matt 15:18-19 KJV

To be fair the above assessment would also apply to prayer in any language whether the words are formed or unformed.


Is it okay to pray from the heart?  


Is there a better way?


“After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come.  Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread.  And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.” Matt 6:9-13 KJV


If you want to pray but don’t know what to pray why not pray the Lord’s Prayer?  It covers just about everything anyways, and unlike the words from your heart it is pure, it is the very Word of God.  Another good prayer book is the Psalms.

Is your conscience burdened with sin?

Pray Psalms 51 

Are you in need of encouragement?  

Pray Psalm 23 

Worn out from the politics in this wicked world?  

Pray Psalms 2

My point is, even the argument of a prayer language doesn’t really pan out Biblically because God has even given us the very words by which to pray.

About ACTheologian

I am a layman who blogs my Biblical studies. Enjoy, please read with an open Bible and do double check with your pastor.
This entry was posted in Armchair Lounge, Christianity 101 and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Speaking in Tongues

  1. Roseline says:

    I knew you definately wont talk against speaking in tongues. Have a few things to talk about, how do you speak to your father in a language you yourself you dont know,what if you are speaking obscene words? Prayer is pouring our Heart out to God and speaking to Him as a man speaks to His friend,would you say something to your friend which you yourself dont know what it means?
    There are these people called enchanters,they are mentioned in the bible on several occasions. How they do their work is they engage a spirit medium and then starts speaking words known to the spirit medium and after a while the spirit called for comes. Now let me come to the so called speaking in tongues,those who practise it begin by enticement,singing in slow mood and pap they start speaking words not known to them and repetitively and later claim the spirit has come,what is the difference with enchantment. Why cant you openly air it out and make it clear that the current so called speaking in tongues is the olden day enchantment and all adds up to spiritualism and overally Devil worship.
    Now this weeks lesson quarterly you have run away from the principle of the lesson,i guess you did so because it has tackled most of your false accusations,but i pray that it has left an impact in your life as it always does to many. Keep reading it,it will help you


    • ACTheologian says:

      I don’t think you read the post, I did speak against it. I even filed it under “Heresy & Heterodoxy”. I don’t think you read the post or maybe didn’t understand?


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