The Gift of Tongues
by Rick Oliver
TONGUE, -1100. glossa, gloce'-sah; of uncertain affinity;
1) the tongue, a member of the body, an organ of speech.
2) a tongue, the language or dialect used by a particular people distinct from
that of other nations.
The gift of tongues was a spiritual gift involving ability to communicate the
gospel into a foreign language(s). At Pentecost which is also called the "feast
of weeks" Jews from different countries were gathered to celebrate the grain and
wheat harvest. Many different languages were represented and when the Holy Ghost
fell upon the church Peter stood up and preached and every man heard the gospel
in his own language (Acts 2). In Corinth some members of the church uttered
sounds (languages) the rest of the congregation did not understand. This led to
controversy and division. Paul tried to unite the church, assuring the church
that there are different gifts but only one Spirit . Each gift should serve to
unite the church.
The out-pouring of the Holy spirit that occurred at the day of Pentecost was an
accreditation given to the church. It was the fulfillment of prophecy (Joel 2).
The church began with Jesus and He promised the comforter would come. These
miraculous sign gifts of the Holy Spirit were present in the first century to
confirm the apostolic revelation and are not expected today. Sign gifts could be
compared to scaffolding used when erecting a building, when the building is
complete the scaffolding is no longer necessary. They were also given as signs
for the Jews. These gifts were given to the apostles to authenticate their
message. The requirement for an apostle was one that was personally and
physically chosen by Christ himself. They had the power to impart gifts to
others. One should consider that the gifts of the apostles were foundational
gifts needed in the first century, and were characterized by certain
qualifications that could not be met today. Also Paul specifically indicated
that some gifts would cease (I Cor 13:8). Some of these would include the
apostles healing, tongues, miracles, interpretation of tongues, and perhaps
discernment of spirits. God can still accomplish all things according to His
will but man is no longer given apostolic power. Spiritual gifts of today are
special attributes given by the Holy Spirit to every saved person. Whatever
gifts and talents God has given you should be used to His honor and glory.
One might consider this question. Did the gifts of the Holy Spirit cease in the
first century, as Paul said they would, and then re-appears in America 1800
years later? The answer is NO. However, in order to expose scriptural error you
must uncover the true context of the scripture and to uncover where man went
wrong in his religious practice you should find the beginning of his error.
Having dealt with the interpretation let us consider the later.
In 1901 a man by the name of Charles Fox Parham declared that speaking in
tongues was a sign of the "baptism of the Holy Ghost." A young girl whom Parham
had been ministering to supposedly received the gift and began speaking in
Chinese. Fascinated by this event a few weeks later Parham himself declared that
he also had acquired the gift of a foreign language. The belief was that these
newly found Pentecost powers were the beginning of end time restoration. Soon
his entire congregation had received the gift. They reasoned that missionary
training would no longer be necessary. However when put to the test the gift
failed. A man by the name of Carr went to India supposedly with the gift of
their language and failed miserably.
Parham, who was an Anglo-Saxon, (who believed they were a chosen race) then
denounced the gift. In the meantime a man by the name of William Seymor, who was
not allowed in Parhams classroom because he was black, had been under Parhamís
teaching by sitting outside the classroom or under the window. Seymor started
his own mission in California. Seymor who was described as poor and with little
to no religious education soon had an outbreak of the gift in his mission.
Proclaiming his wife had started singing in Hebrew interest began to spread like
wild-fire. Parham and Seymor had a falling out over the issue in which Parham
had argued the gift was false. Soon interest had grown and Seymor rented a
building at 312 Azua St. in California. Word soon spread across the entire
United States and thus the famous 312 Azua St. revival was born. People were
soon coming from all over including mediums who were chanting in the services.
Headlines that read "weird babble of tongues" just added fuel to the fire. And
so you have the birth of the Pentecostal Church.
Today we have the charismatic movement which stemmed out of this belief. Men who
call themselves Holy Ghost bar-tenders claiming apostolic powers and gifts of
healing. Terms such as being slain in the spirit or drunk in the spirit with
fits of laughter and jerks. Working their crowds up into psychological states of
hypnotic suggestiveism no different than what the Hindu guruís do. People are so
starved for the true Spirit of God they have imitated Him with fleshly, human
emotion. These are acts of pagan worship. Consider these two scriptures. Acts
5:12 " And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought
among the people; " I Tim 4:1 "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the
latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits,
and doctrines of devils-" The kingdom that Jesus set up needs no restoration. He
is perfect and so is His kingdom. When He returns He will clean up the only
imperfections that it has, mortal man.
Which specific gift is the most valuable one? Paul's answer to this is clear and
emphatic: the one gift all Christians should have, love. Love is the ultimate
spiritual gift. If we have all other gifts and lack love, we have nothing; if we
have love and nothing else, we have everything. Paul said that love fulfils the
entire law. Love makes possible the fellowship of the church and guarantees that
gifts will be used unselfishly. Love is the greatest gift given to us by the God
who is love. I John 4:7 " Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God;
and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God." Jesus said we must
be born again and yes there is a experience with God that still must be felt in
your heart and soul. His love comes into our hearts through His spirit by faith
and repentance. The love that God places in your heart when you are saved is
truly the greatest spiritual gift anyone could have.