Are Tongues And Healings For Today?
In 2003 I went to a meeting organized by a well known local evangelist/'healer.' At the time I had only been saved around a year and didn't really know what to expect. As a former Catholic such meetings were alien to me. (Although Rome does have some charismatic priests/'healers,' I had never met any.) Upon arrival there was a good 100 strong crowd present. The usual trestle tables were erected, selling books, tracts and videos.
We took our seats, sung a couple of good hymns, with a very good one called Have You Met The Man From Galilee, although the key was too high for me.
Before the main speaker of the evening was introduced, one of his colleagues, an elderly gentleman begun by telling us how his mother in law, (eighty something and after fifty years of prayer) had finally received Jesus as her own Saviour. Naturally we applauded this unusual and happy ending to what must have felt like a lifetime of prayer finally being answered.
As people were still clapping the elderly man in the pulpit began speaking in some strange 'language.' At the time I remember thinking how he might have been speaking in Hebrew. Of course later on I deciphered that he had in fact been 'speaking in tongues,' and like all the others there who did likewise, no interpreter was on hand to interpret; so with unsaved people present, this group had already violated two areas of Scripture, when dealing with the subject of speaking in tongues in a local meeting (1 Cor. 14.)
Throughout the evening, I witnessed people rolling around on the floor, 'repeat healings,' one woman crying as someone tried to 'exorcise her demon,' another lady being 'healed' of some illness, to later being found outside the building chewing gum, with another 'healed' victim puffing away on her cigarette.
One lady told those present how she'd been finally 'healed' after visiting this 'healer' for twenty years of arachnophobia.
I came away with mixed feelings about what I'd seen.
Two weeks later I invited myself along to this 'healers' house-church meeting. In total there were about seven of us there. As the meeting commenced I found myself feeling more unsure about them and their doctrine.
I recall one 'female pastor' sitting there and when I asked her how she justified her 'clerical position,' she and the others became rather irritated with me. I told this 'female pastor' that it wasn't Biblical and showed her the verses (1 Timothy 2:12-15.) I got a mute response.
As the service continued, we all prayed aloud for things of importance to us. During this time more than one person 'spoke in tongues,' and again with no interpreter. I pressed him why he did this and did he understand what he was saying. He told me he had "no idea what he was saying." And neither did the rest of us, so why do it then?
As the meeting came to a close, we had tea and biscuits and I was able to talk to the man in question who's house I had attended. This man was a strong preacher of the word and I believe him to be genuine and honest in his ministry.
Yet I also know how easy it can be to be mislead by feelings, ignorance and popularity.
My father was very respected and admired in our former Catholic church. One old friend of ours called him "Mr. Wonderful." Fame, popularity and money can change a person over night if their not careful. I believe the same happened to this preacher.
I also fear millions of Pentecostal and charismatic believers have erred abundantly in the whole tongues/signs and wonders movement. What I had seen at this meeting wasn't supernatural healings but the same old people returning week in week out for their placebo fix. Nobody was healed instantly and permanently that night (this is the only sign of an authentic Biblical healer), at least not that I knew of.
I had an illness at the time and yet I wasn't healed. Was this, as some 'healers' proclaim, because I had no faith? I think not. I had adequate faith (probably more than them) but with no healing forthcoming, my conclusion was that such men were not anointed and neither were others I'd investigated.
I wondered if it had ever dawned on such people that God doesn't always want everybody happy, wealthy and totally healed. Nobody in the NT had such things, so why should we in this apostate generation?
I recall reading of the pain that the famous Christian writer, Joni Eareckson Tada felt (a quadriplegic in a wheelchair), when she was told that she didn't have enough faith to be healed. These cruel words are truly despicable, not to mention being un-Scriptual.
There were people in Scripture that were healed who didn't even believe in Christ. The only ones that were never healed were those that refused to come to Jesus in the first place to be healed.
Barry Smith, the funny and enjoyable Pentecostal speaker, had a daughter who suffered from schizophrenia and dreadful depression for many years. However Barry, who believed very strongly in healings and tongues, wasn't able to heal his sick daughter nor were any of his Pentecostal friends.
Tragically his daughter committed suicide in 2000. (The Smith family later broke many of their links with their Pentecostal church, when some of their life-long friends, told Barry that his daughter was now 'in Hell for committing suicide.')
Oral Roberts was once having a healing meeting when the tent he was in collapsed. What did Oral do? He called for ambulances to come and take away the sick. He didn't heal anybody.
Recently I got talking to a Christian 'healer' in my town while I was distributing Gospel tracts (something he told me he never did), and I challenged him to go over and heal a blind busker, just 30 yards from where we stood talking. He didn't and I knew he knew that I knew he wasn't going to.
There are many more stories like this that I can recall but for now will retain for a future article. This article is solely on speaking in tongues, so I don't wish to deviate any further from the subject in hand.
Finally, I found myself having to write to this local preacher/'healer' and I started by commending his strong preaching and dedicated spirit in the Lord. But then over the next six or so letters, I outlined where I felt his ministry and 'healings' weren't quite up to what he thought they were.
After failing to convince him of his errors we agreed to disagree, but not before he threatened me with legal action for what he called 'libel.' One again he was in violation of Scripture (1 Cor. 6:1-8.)
Obviously I had hit a nerve and therefore it was time to move on and leave this brother and his 'ministry' behind. After this saga, I prayed some time for him but never again would I hear from him.
The purpose of composing this article is not to question anyone's salvation, regardless of their gender, nor is it to cause any undue harm, pain or division to the Body of Christ.
What I am primarily interested in however, is to try and ascertain whether or not the Jewish Apostolic sign gift of speaking in tongues is still for today, and was it/is it available to men and women.
In Acts 2:1, at first glance, the text appears to suggest men and women received the gift of speaking in tongues. However at a closer look Scripture with Scripture-and we discover that in vss. 13 and 14 how only men had this new gift and such a gift was clearly a known language for others to identify with (vs. 8.)
Further, Scripture clearly restricts the different types of tongues/languages (1 Cor. 12:10b; 28) to a) men only (1 Cor. 14:34, 35) and b) only selected men at that (1 Cor. 12:10.)
(In the Amplified Bible it clearly states on page 984, how only the Apostles were speaking in tongues, on the day of Pentecost.)
Therefore, for Scripture to omit women being present when this mighty gift arrived, one must conclude that they were not to be the recipients of it.
However, when Jesus fed the four thousand for example, women are reported present to receive this blessing too (Matt. 15:38.) When the five thousand are fed, Scripture again reports their presence (Matt. 14:21.) Therefore with no record in the NT of any woman (Jewish or Gentile) ever speaking in tongues, I conclude this Apostolic gift was only given to some men for a certain period of time.
Acts 2:38 and the gift of the Holy Ghost (note the word is singular nor plural) means to be baptised into the body of Christ (Eph. 4:4), which would result in eternal life for all recipients.
This gift according to verse 39, is to "all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call."
Moving through Scripture, we read how Stephen and Philip (both male leaders) performed many miracles (Acts 6:8; 8:6.)
When Philip arrived in Samaria, he healed the whole town of diverse diseases (Acts 8:6-8.)
How many leaders in any denomination anywhere in the world do you know of that have ever had this wonderful gift at any time, especially after the NT was completed? None!
When the Samaritans received the Holy Ghost, there's no mention of anybody speaking in tongues (Acts 8:12-17.) Also this group, after they'd been baptised, had to wait for the Apostles to come down to lay hands on them, before the Holy Spirit fell on them. (The Catholic and Anglican church cite this passage in Scripture to argue for confirmation. However, this practise only occurred once in Acts and when today's church leaders lay on hands, nobody speaks in tongues.)
The Gentile eunuch is baptised by Philip and doesn't speak in tongues. Nobody else is sent along to "confirm him" and off he goes into the sunset rejoicing in his new birth. There is no evidence from Scripture that this man was a proselyte or even circumcised, even though he reads the OT on route to Jerusalem to worship; for did not Moses' father in law, Jethro, the priest of Midian also show respect to the God of Israel, by offering Him a sacrifice, before returning back to his pagan land and people (Ex. 18:12-27.)
Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus was subsequently baptised, yet doesn't speak in tongues like the church on the Jewish feast day of Pentecost did; was also baptised after he was saved and called brother before he received his anointing.
Cornelius, a Roman Centurion and probably a circumcised proselyte to Judaism, therefore in the eyes of the Jews he was now Jewish, received the gift of speaking in tongues, along with his whole believing household (Acts 10.)
Lydia is the first Gentile woman named in Scripture to be baptised in Acts, yet she doesn't speak in tongues (Acts 16:15.)
The Gentile Philippian jailor and his all his household believed the gospel (this rules out infant baptism) and were then baptised. No tongues reported here either.
In Acts 19:6, Paul comes across some of John the Baptist's disciples and he asks them about receiving the Holy Ghost since they believed in Jesus as their Messiah. Their answer about not even knowing if there was a Holy Ghost makes we wonder if these were Jewish men at all? For how many orthodox Jews would fail to know about the Spirit of God? Might it be possible these men were additional Roman proselytes from Luke 3:14?
Either way, these 12 men, whether Jewish or Gentile, all speak in tongues. (Note, this passage of Scripture cannot be used to justify the second blessing doctrine, in which Christians need an additional baptism to make them more spiritual; these disciples were not Christians in the first place.
All they knew was what John had told them, how Christ was soon to come and they needed to repent, be baptised and ready for His soon arrival. Once Paul explained Jesus to them, then they received Him and were baptised spiritually and physically.)
With the main accounts of Acts of the Apostles covered, when dealing with the gift of tongues, may we now focus our attention on 1 Corinthians 12-14.
Paul spends considerable time with this carnal church trying to explain the correct use of the gift of tongues, while it was still in use.
"Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost" (12:3.)
Some Corinthians, while using their gift of tongues, were saying "Jesus is cursed."
These former pagans, who no doubt once spoke in tongues (Mormons, Red Indians, Catholics and Satanists speak in tongues too) were rebuked by Paul. His language therefore at the end of the epistle make sense, when he says:
"If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha" (16:22.)
But the main reason for quoting this verse, and there are additional ones to follow, is to highlight once again that men are spoken of here as the recipients and not women. The same masculine pronoun is found in Webster's Bible, the Roman Catholic Douay-Rheims Bible and the Recovery Bible.
I should say that the word man or men can refer to mankind in general, like when Hebrews says, "[He] should taste death for every man." But in 1 Cor. 4:14, which in the context is about men/elders having to disciple and discipline the local assembly, something not applicable for women, then one can see that there are differences between the relevancy of pronouns: "I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you."
Yet when dealing with spiritual gifts, which Paul says differ per person, it cannot be therefore applicable for all, for that would contradict the diversities of gifts for different men.
Five verses later, Paul again has the following to say:
"But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal" (12:7.)
Now obviously he is not saying to everyman without exception but every man without distinction, for as we've already demonstrated some men did not speak in tongues.
The following verse also is self-explanatory:
"But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will" (12:11.)
In the 13th chapter, Paul has the following to say of himself:
"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."
Paul's tongues of men, would be the different earthly languages, which he enjoyed for his worldwide travels; and his tongues of angels, may have been when he went to the third Heaven and communicated, like John the Apostle did, with his angelic hosts, something that doesn't apply to anybody today (2 Cor. 12:2; Rev. 22:8-12.)
"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."
When we analyse these three gifts, Scripture helps us understand their current relevance:
1. Prophecies (foretelling) shall fail (Jude 3; Rev. 22 seem to affirm this with the close of canon.)
2. Tongues shall cease (with later canonical writings silent about this gift, one can see its cessation and nobody from Tertullian until Wesley came along is reported to have 'spoken in tongues.')
3. Apostolic knowledge will vanish away (Acts 5:3 shows Peter had this gift, but several years later, Paul didn't, Gal. 5:10.)
The 14th and final chapter in 1 Corinthians and we shall cite some more passages with explanation underneath:
"Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy" (vs. 1.)
Prophecy here, I believe, would be the sort we see from Zechariah (Luke 1:67) and Philip's daughters (Acts 21:9), and this gift I believe would still be available for today, when we think of some of the beautiful poetry and song writers throughout the church age (Jude 24, 25.)
But the prophecy of foretelling, like that of Agabus (Acts 21:10-12) and Simeon (Luke 2:34, 35), during the completion of the NT and inter-testimonial period, isn't sustained in Scripture for being applicable today.
The next batch of verses are combined:
"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; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church...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."
For Paul it was more important for the church to prophesy, i.e., give God the glory than compared to all speaking at once in tongues and cause mass confusion and even hysteria.
(See George Whitefield's complaints about some of John Wesley's meetings.)
The next two verses again should be self-explanatory:
"Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret" (vs. 13.)
Finally as we close this chapter and our article, Paul interestingly, when quoting Is. 28, changes the original verse and it reads as following:
"In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord" (14:21.)
Yet in Is. 28:11, it reads:
"For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people" (Is. 28:11.)
Clearly Paul by this stage is teaching that the Holy Spirit had all along intended only men to enjoy this free linguistic gift, which supernaturally helped spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth (Rom. 10:18.)
And the word men here, which is in italics in the AV, is also found in the NIV and the NASV.
"Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not."
The first half of this verse was all about rebuking the unbelieving Jews, something long ago prophesied in the OT (Jer. 5:21), who didn't have a clue about what was going on, something similar to the tower of Babel when apostasy was also rife and endemic, not to mention divers languages forced on them by an angry God, for refusing to do what He told them: replenish the earth and spread out (Gen. 11:9.)
..but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe" (14:22.)
And the latter half has already been explained for the glory of God and the edifying of the entire assembly.
"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" (14:27.)
To keep decent and Godly honour in the church, Paul spelt it out how this Apostolic gift was to be used.
"But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God" (14:28.)
This is God's ideal pattern and makes perfect sense.
"Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law" (14:34.)
As we've already proven that women are not the recipients of tongues, they mustn't be heard speaking when the church is in motion either (1 Tim. 2:11-15.)
"If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord" (14:37.)
For those that would challenge Paul's Apostolic authority (and they did) and teaching here, he challenges them to acknowledge whether or not it is from the Lord.
"But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant" (14:38.)
Many today remain wilfully ignorant.
"Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues. Let all things be done decently and in order" (14:39.)
When this gift was in existence, nobody was to forbid men from speaking in tongues, providing this wasn't done in the company of unsaved people, for such folks would consider the church to be filled with mad people (1 Cor. 14:23); no more than 2 or 3 men at a time and always with an interpreter.
When this Biblical pattern is followed, Scripture would support it.
By now, it should be obvious to the reader that I do not hold to gift of tongues being applicable today, nor do I believe in healings, prophecies or visions. I believe in the total sufficiency of Sola Scriptura - the correct theological term for me would be a cessationist. However I wish the reader to know, that I have been as impartial and open-minded as possible, while researching this far from exhaustive article.
Therefore as I conclude this piece, I need to reiterate one last time how Scripture doesn't report women speaking in tongues, performing miracles, healing anybody, making future prophecies or even penning a book in Scripture.
So it is intriguing, ironic and even disturbing as one looks on in amazement at the many women in the church today, claiming all sorts of 'signs and wonders' as having 'Biblical support.'
With Scripture unable to collaborate any of this, one has little option but to dismiss the tongues movement on the grounds of perhaps being either demonic, as the late J. Vernon McGee once said or as John Macarthur said in his book Charismatic Chaos, "It's mostly learned behaviour."
I recall a conversation I had with a Pentecostal lady, who liked to quote at me Romans 11:29, which reads:
"For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance."
She thought it was about speaking in tongues, even though the word tongues doesn't appear anywhere in the chapter. In the context, Paul is writing about the nation of Israel being grafted back in again to God's plan for salvation, during the Tribulation and therefore God's love and plan for Israel is forever, and without repentance (Jer. 31:35, 36.)
Another text which is sometimes cited, is Romans 12:3-8. But again in this section of Scripture, the word tongues is never implied or even mentioned.
We must also be grateful for the input that former charismatics have been able to share on this subject. I have listened to at least two testimonies from such people who claimed terrible peer pressure to 'speak in tongues' and make regular 'prophecies.'
One young man became so depressed and apathetic until he renounced it and found fellowship elsewhere.
Regrettably too many people make the Bible match their feelings when in reality they should be using the Bible to test their feelings and experiences.
I wish to finish my article, with Isaiah's prophectic words on this whole modern tongues/charismatic movement and how best to avoid it, with three cross references from the NT:
"But the word of the LORD was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward [John 18:6], and be broken [Matt. 21:44], and snared [Rom. 11:9], and taken [2 Tim. 2:16.])" (Is. 28:13.)