The Gifts of Tongues and Interpretations
By Dr. Ray Melugin


"To another, divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues" (I Corinthians 12:10)


I. Tongues in the Book of Acts

A. Referred to three times in Acts, tongues seems to mean a foreign language.
1. On Pentecost, the 120 spoke in dialects, not in their native tongues. (Acts 2:1-13)

2. At Cornelius' home, Peter called it "the like gift" as came on Pentecost, likely involving foreign languages. (Acts 10:44-47 and 11:15-18)

3. At Ephesus, disciples of John the Baptist came into knowledge about Christ, also spoke in a foreign language. (Acts 19:1-7)

Note: At Pentecost, the language obstacles were removed as each heard in his own language. Modern tongues-speaking does the opposite by setting up a language barrier, which without interpretation cannot be overcome.

B. When the tongue was foreign, interpretation would be the ability to translate by someone who did not know the language.


II. Purpose of the Gift

A. To authenticate the Gospel messengers
1. To the Jews at Pentecost, tongues-speaking attracted a crowd, providing a springboard for Peter's sermon, and helped with 3,000 souls. (Acts 2)

2. To the Gentiles at Cornelius' house, tongues were used to convince the skeptical Jewish believers that the Gospel was for Gentiles too. (Acts 10)

3. At Ephesus, the 12 disciples saw the reality of Paul's new message, evidenced by tongues (I Corinthians 14:22)

4. When Tongues were used, Jews were always present. They were a sign to the Jews. (I Corinthians 1:22)

B. Spirit given abilities must be directed outward, to edify the church.
Note: If tongues speaking at Corinth was ecstatic speech, their value was directed inward, toward the speaker, others not knowing what was said (I Corinthians 14:4)


III. Limitations on Tongues

A. Tongues are not the sign of baptism in the Spirit.
1. All believers have been baptized in the Holy Spirit. (I Corinthians 12:13)

2. John's saying of Matthew 3:11 came true on the Day of Pentecost. (Acts 1:4-5; 2:1-4)

3. The Spirit came at Pentecost without answer to pErnester, or fulfillment of any condition.

4. Nowhere are believers commanded to seek the baptism of the Spirit.

B. Tongues are not biblical method of Christian growth.
1. In the epistles, which speak of Christian growth, tongues are not mentioned.

2. Tongues are mentioned in only 2 of 27 New Testament books. We are however, encouraged to "grow in grace an in knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." (II Peter 3:18)

3. Modern day tongues are found outside of Biblical fundamental circles. (Known among Zulus, Hinduism, Muslims, Mormons, Catholics, spiritualists)

C. Tongues are not the sign of maturity or spirituality.
1. The Corinthian Church was marked by immaturity. (I Corinthians 3:1-3)

2. The mark of spirituality is not tongues-speaking, but fruit bearing. (Galatians 5:22-23) "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy..."

3. Some of God's greatest servants never spoke in tongues; George Muller, Charles Spurgeon, Dwight Moody, Billy Sunday.

Note: John the Baptist, of whom Jesus said "no one greater had arisen," never spoke in tongues.

D. Tongues are not a church-building gift.
1. Gifts are not given for psychological value, nor self-aggrandizement, but for the strengthening of other believers. (I Corinthians 14:4)

2. Tongues were to be strictly governed lest unbelievers in the service conclude that the people "are mad." (I Corinthians 14:23)


IV. Observations

A. The Early Church was not known for their ability to speak in tongues, but rather for turning the world upside down, preaching in understandable words. (Acts 17:6)

B. The gift served its major purpose in apostolic days. (Authenticating the message, and the messenger)

C. Beware of majoring on the minors.
1. Paul never suggested to any church to seek tongues.
2. Tongues are not mentioned in any epistle outside Corinthians where he tried to correct its abuses.

D. Don't interpret the Bible by experience, but interpret experience by the Bible.

E. Paul emphasized a clear presentation of the Word to be superior than incomprehensible, ecstatic speech. (I Corinthians 14:19)

F. Tongues is not mentioned in the qualifications for being a pastor. (I Timothy 3:1-13)


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