by Bill Lambert
In 1 Corinthians chapters 13, 14, and 15, the apostle Paul addresses the
misunderstanding that some of the brethren in Corinth had about the various
spiritual gifts then in existence. It seems that there were some who
had a particular fascination for the ability to speak in languages which
they had not learned. Exactly why this seemed so important to them
we are not told. It is pointed out to them, especially in chapter 14,
that the purpose of all spiritual gifts was to impart the will of God.
These languages are referred to as “unknown tongues.” This simply meant
that the speakers did not know the language in which they were enabled to
speak. This has been a confusing area to some. They are under
the mistaken impression that it involved a kind of language which was unknown
to anyone, a special language, reserved only for those who speak under the
influence of the Holy Spirit.
ACTS CHAPTER TWO
The events in Acts, chapter two will help to clarify any misunderstanding
about the nature of “tongues.” Let the reader understand that the “cloven
tongues” of fire referred to in Acts 2 are not to be confused with the “other
tongues” also mentioned there. The scripture says that the apostles
began to speak in “other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” Were
these “other tongues” a special language spoken only by Spirit-led men?
The answer is to be found in the context. The hearers said that they
were hearing the wonderful works of God proclaimed unto them in their “own
tongues,” in which they were born. Thus, the “tongues” were known languages
to the hearers, languages with which they were very familiar. The speakers
were unfamiliar with the various languages, making it necessary for the Spirit
to “give them utterance.” While this explanation helps to simplify
the matter, it does not lessen the wonder of it at all. As a matter
of fact, it shows that the gifts which were bestowed upon the apostles were
not only miraculous, but also practical.
FIRST CORINTHIANS CHAPTER 14
Consider, how useful would it be for some special, unknown (to anyone) language
to be used? Who would have been able to understand it? Even when
one spoke in a known language which he had not learned, it was necessary
that an interpreter be present if the hearer did not know the language being
used. If this was not done, the hearer was not benefited. There
may be some sounds which might be similar to sounds with which he was familiar,
but the meaning might be completely different. Such would constitute
“uncertain sounds.” The writer says that would be like a military trumpeter
who did not make any distinguishing sounds with his instrument. The
troops would not be sure what the trumpet call was supposed to mean.
Confusion would reign, just as it does among those who employ their self-devised
“tongues” in their religious services.
A SPECIAL SOUND
Someone has said that “necessity is the mother of invention.” Those
who claim spiritual gifts today, because of their misunderstanding about
unknown tongues, “needed” a special sound, so they invented one. Those
who use it may have gotten it from a common source, but it is not from the
Spirit of God. As noted before, people in the New Testament who were
endowed with spiritual gifts spoke in real, known languages. What is
done today in certain religious services is nothing like what Spirit-enabled
people in the New Testament did.
THAT WHICH IS PERFECT HAS COME
In 1 Corinthians 13:8-10, Paul says that when “that which is perfect is come,
then that which is in part shall be done away.” He shows that the spiritual
gifts were given to complete (perfect) the revelation of God. The gifts
of tongues, of prophecy, and of special knowledge were among the spiritual
gifts which accomplished this. Once revelation was complete, then the
spiritual gifts would no longer be needed, for they, individually, only represented
a part, not the whole.
NO ONE SPECIALLY ENDOWED TODAY
Since the revelation of God is complete, and there is no need to have the
spiritual gifts which were given in the first century, those claiming such
gifts today are making false claims. This includes those who claim
to be speaking in “tongues.” Whatever they think they have, it is not
what people in the New Testament had, and it serves no useful purpose.