On Speaking in Tongues: A Response

This post is a response to a blog by a well-known author whom I greatly respect, and whose blog I very much like to follow. The post I am responding to does not change that. Karen Hancock is, in my opinion, a very insightful blogger and a tremendously talented Christian fiction author. The post to which I am responding can be found at this link: http://karenhancock.wordpress.com/2009/08/24/opposition/. In this posting, Ms. Hancock opposes the idea that speaking in tongues is a gift of the Spirit for the Church today.

First off, it seems from her description that (hopefully) well-meaning individuals attempted to "force" Ms. Hancock to accept speaking in tongues as legitimate and to seek this gift for herself. The Holy Spirit is a Gentleman; therefore, if tongues are of God, then they should not and cannot be forced on anyone. I believe these people's efforts were out of line and did not represent a rational view of those who believe speaking in tongues to be valid. I would like to attempt to do so here, without trying to persuade Ms. Hancock that she is wrong - I simply wish to demonstrate that 1) not all who believe in speaking in tongues are snake-handlers and/or irrational and uneducated lunatics, and 2) those who believe in speaking in tongues today do have a biblical basis for their belief. It all depends on one's interpretation of certain Scriptures.

If I had to guess which Scriptures Ms. Hancock referred to when she spoke of "extensive scriptural evidence" that tongues are not for today, I would say the key verse would be found in 1 Corinthians 13:8, which says, "Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away" (NASB). According to this verse, if tongues have ceased, then so has knowledge.

We should also note that this chapter is located between two chapters (1 Corinthians 12 and 14) that give instruction on operating in spiritual gifts, and chapter 12 closes with "...earnestly desire the greater gifts. And I show you a still more excellent way." Then the author, Paul, goes into an exhortation on love, and how everything is vain and meaningless without it. One might argue that Paul was saying the gifts of chapter 12 are not really necessary if one has love; but I would ask why he picked back up with his spiritual gifts instruction in chapter 14? Also, in chapter 14 verse 18 he said, "I thank God, I speak in tongues more than you all." He obviously believed the gifts to be effectual and needed. He also believed they should be exercised in an orderly manner so that they could be effectual.

Ms. Hancock also made a comment about the orderly manner in which tongues and interpretation were to be exercised. She said one lady "offered to give the interpretation [of a message that same lady had just given in tongues] (in violation of protocol set up in the NT - it was supposed to be someone else who did that...." However, this is a mistaken understanding of the protocol. Paul in fact said, "Therefore let one who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret" (1 Corinthians 14:13). Not everyone who gives a message in tongues interprets that message - sometimes it is done by someone else; but it can be done (scripturally) by the person who gave the message in tongues.

One more thing in Ms. Hancock's post that I would like to respond to is that another lady told her that what tongues "did for her" was make her certain that she was saved. This is not the purpose of tongues. Neither should a person seek what Pentecostals and charismatics refer to as "the baptism in the Holy Spirit" just so they can speak in tongues. Tongues is the initial physical evidence that one has received that baptism. It is, of course, also more than that; and there are at least two different types of speaking in tongues (public and private), which both serve other purposes. I may post a separate blog on these purposes. But the purpose of the baptism in the Holy Spirit is not to speak in other tongues; that is just a gift. The purpose of the baptism (which is comparable to an "overflowing" baptism in water) is power and boldness for witness, as declared in Acts 1:8 and demonstrated throughout the Book of Acts whenever anyone received the baptism of the Holy Ghost.

[I would recommend a book to anyone who wants to know more, from an academic view about why Pentecostals believe speaking in tongues to always be the initial physical evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. It is an examination of the five instances in Acts where the Spirit is poured out on people, and - bonus - it is only 65 pages long! It is Baptism in the Holy Spirit by Anthony D. Palma, and published by Gospel Publishing House.]

1 Corinthians 14:33 says, "for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints." Oftentimes confusion comes in when people do not understand the workings of the Holy Spirit - by this I mean those who operate in the gifts of the Spirit (which is why they should always seek to grow in understanding, and why others should afford them grace while they learn); and also by those who are not familiar with the working of these gifts. But any true working of the Holy Spirit should be welcome by Christians who wish to receive all He wishes to give. My final statement is that a person is no less a Christian because he or she does or does not speak in tongues.


  1. I would like to add one more thing. Tongues were used in the NT to reach Jews of the diaspora who were gathered in Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost, and who spoke various languages from around the world. But those Jews also carried the Gospel to the Gentiles in other parts of the world (as with Philip carrying the Gospel to Samaria in Acts 8:5 - also, these Samaritan believers almost definitely spoke in tongues, or else showed some other physical manifestation of baptism in the Spirit - why else would Simon have offered money for the ability to produce such a show in verses 17-19?). A further instance of Gentiles receiving gifts of tongues is recorded in Acts 10:45, 46. So it was not merely a sign to Jews, but to Gentiles as well. And it still is.

  2. Great response Melody! Good stuff!

  3. Hi Melody,

    I read Karen's post a while back and just went back to her blog and saw your post and read your blog. I can say that I believe you are a very thoughtful individual and seeking the truth (as all devoted Christians are). Karen's post intrigued me because it spoke of opposition which I encountered ( in a different way) and I was digging around my basement and happened upon Pastor RB Thieme's book entitled Toungues which does build a more comprehensive study of why toungues are not relevant for the church age. I realize a blog post is too short to detail a study on tongues so I would encourage you to seek this book out. I believe most of Pastor Thieme's books are still available free of charge in spite of his passing on to the eternal life a few months ago. One thing that my pastor has taught is that we are not to let scripture divide us but we are the entire body of Christ. I believe it's important to remember b/c each of us can hold onto certain doctrines b/c they are comfortable to us. The Holy Spirit is our unlitmate teacher and if we are in fellowship, we can learn when we are humble. I am challenged by scripture daily and have been most enlightened by Pastor Thieme and Pastor Robert McLaughlin.

    I wish you well.

  4. Thank you for your comment, Tabitha. I saved the link to Col. Thieme's site, but have not checked out the book yet. I will do so. You're right - there's so much information and study...it really is hard to outlay much of one's theology on any given subject in a single blog posting!


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