Positonal Statements

The modern Charismatic movement had its beginnings about 1900 in a revival meeting on Azusa Street in the Los Angeles area. It has emphasized the belief that all of the spiritual gifts mentioned in the New Testament are to be exercised today. It is not uncommon to hear one say they're all apostles.  One of the gifts frequently exalted is the gift of tongues. In fact, the Charismatic movement is often called "the tongues movement" due to this extreme emphasis. If you do not do their type of "tongues" your are looked upon as being something less or even considered unsaved. Let's consider five common errors promoted by the Charismatic movement pertaining to tongues. Not every charismatic church promotes all of the errors, but these five errors are very commonly held.


What the Bible Teaches:

(1) In the book of Acts the fact that Christians were being filled with the Holy Spirit is mentioned many times but only one time is tongues speaking mentioned in connection with being filled with the Holy Spirit. The tongues speaking in this case was the apostles preaching the gospel in foreign languages to great multitudes who gathered in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost from all nations in the world. Acts 2:6 states that "every man heard them (the apostles) speak in his own language."

It is a great error to make tongues speaking the primary evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit. A careful study of the book of Acts shows the following evidences present when believers were filled with the Spirit:

(2) The evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit in Ephesians chapters five and six does not mention tongues at all. The marks of Spirit filling are said to be spiritual in nature. (Ephesians 5:19, 21-33; 6:1-9).

To connect tongues with being filled with the Holy Spirit filling is unscriptural.

(3) 1 Corinthians 12:13 states that all believers have been baptized by the Holy Spirit but the same chapter says that not all believers speak in tongues (1 Corinthians 12:30).


In most charismatic groups every Christian is encouraged to speak in tongues. The pressure to do this varies from group to group, but tongues speaking is definitely upheld as something desirable and important for the Christian life.

What the Bible Teaches:

The New Testament teaches that different gifts are given to different Christians, and no one particular gift is given to every believer. Paul plainly taught that not every Christian spoke in tongues even in the first century (1 Corinthians 12:4, 7-12, 29-30).

Spiritual gifts were sovereignly given by God. One did not obtain this on their own.


Though there are exceptions, most charismatic churches teach that the Christian should seek to speak in tongues. In fact, the pressure to do so can be intense. Many books have been written to teach people how to speak in tongues.

What the Bible Teaches:

(1) Paul told the Corinthian believers that they should covet the "best gifts" (1 Corinthians 12:31). He listed the gifts in order of importance in verses 28-30. Tongues is at the bottom of the list! It is strange that a gift that the Apostles considered the least important has become so important in Charismatic circles!

(2) The disciples did not seek to speak in tongues. In every Testament, the tongues were given by God in His Own purpose and choice. In no instance were the recipients trying to speak in tongues.

(3) The Bible never tells the Christian to seek to speak in tongues. Not once is there mention of such instruction given by the Apostles.

(4) There is no instruction in the Bible about HOW  to speak in tongues. If tongues speaking was so very important for the Christian life and if it was such a good thing for every Christian to speak in tongues, surely God would have plainly instructed us in how to do such a thing!

(5) The charismatic method of speaking in tongues is unscriptural and dangerous. When a person accepts the idea that tongues speaking is necessary for the spiritual life, he then asks how tongues can be received. Charismatic preachers instruct such a one to simply open his mouth and start muttering words but without using normal language. God is supposed to take control of the tongue.

There is not a hint, not a single word, of such a practice in the New Testament. The Bible warns Christians that there are deceiving spirits who attempt to influence Christians and that they can appear as angels of light and ministers of God (2 Corinthians 11:13-15; Matthew 24:24). Paul warned the Corinthians that they were in danger of receiving false spirits because of their carnal, undiscerning condition (2 Corinthians 11:3, 4). Satan's purpose is to deceive believers in Christ. Thus the Bible warns us to be sober and vigilant (1 Peter 4:7; 5:8).


When it is pointed out that the modern tongues spoken in charismatic services is not a know earthly language, tongues speakers reply that they are speaking in a heavenly prayer language (often called "Private Prayer Language").

What the Bible Teaches:

The tongues spoken in the early churches were real earthly languages (Acts 2:6-10). There are two Greek words used in Acts 2:6-8 to make note about. The word glŏssa (tongue) and the word dialĕktŏs (dialect). The hearers in Acts not only heard the word spoken intelligibly but in their own dialect. This was not a private prayer language. There is a third word to consider found in Romans 8:26. It is the Greek word stĕnagmŏs (groan). This verse is often used to justify their "private prayer language." The word groan has nothing to do with tongues or languages. To use this verse to justify a private prayer language is improper hermeneutics. According to 1 Corinthians 14:2, tongues speaking was the giving forth of mysteries, which refers to revelation. The term "mysteries" in the New Testament refers to things that were hidden in Old Testament times but are now brought to light (Romans 16:25, 26; 1 Corinthians 2:7, 10; Ephesians 3:3-5; Colossians 1:26). This is what happened on the day of Pentecost. Those that heard the disciples speak in tongues on that day said, "we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God" (Acts 2:11). Biblical tongues were languages, not some unintelligible muttering that had no meaning.


Tongues speaking in the charismatic circles is said to be something the Christian can do privately to edify himself.

What the Bible Teaches:

God plainly tells us the purpose of tongues. It was to give a sign to the nation Israel regarding the fact that God was doing this new thing in starting the church (1 Corinthians 14:20-22). Paul tells us that tongues was a fulfillment of prophecy in Isaiah 28:11, 12.

Paul gave 8 rules to follow in 1 Corinthians chapter 14 for the true Biblical use of tongues. These were followed in the early church:

(1) Public tongues - Speaking in tongues was to benefit and build up the body (verse 26).

(2) Only two or three were to speak in tongues in a service (verses 27 & 30).

(3) They were to speak in turn (verses 27 & 30).

(4) Tongues were to be spoken only when interpreted (verses 27 & 28).

(5) Discerning people were to weigh the message to determine its validity (verse 29).

(6) Women were not to speak in tongues (verse 34).

(7) Tongues were not to be forbidden but to be given a lower place than prophecy (verse 39).

(8) A proper and orderly atmosphere in the church service was to be maintained (verse 40).


The following are the reasons why we know that modern tongues are not biblical tongues:

(1) Biblical tongues were a sign to Israel regarding the founding of the church and ceased when the foundation of the church was completed (1 Corinthians 13:8, 9; 14:20-22; Ephesians 2:20).

(2) Biblical tongues were bound by apostolic direction (no women speaking, men were to speak one at a time, interpretation, no confusion, etc.) (1 Corinthians chapter 14). The practice of "tongues" in modern times is not restrained in this way.

(3) Biblical tongues were real earthly languages (Acts 2:6-10).

(4) Biblical tongues were revelatory messages (1 Corinthians 14:2; 2:7; Ephesians 3:3-5).

(5) Biblical tongues were not sought after but were sovereignly given by God. (It did not make one proud, but humble) (1 Corinthians 12:11).

(6) Biblical tongues were the least important spiritual gift (1 Corinthians 12:28-30).

(7) Biblical tongues were not spoken by all Christians (1 Corinthians 12:30).

(8) The Bible nowhere teaches that speaking in tongues is the evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit.

Randall Runions, Pastor

317 Church Street

Po Box 161

Clifton, Tn 38425