Q & A: Has the Gift of Tongues Ceased? Part 1

Q & A: Has The Gift of Tongues Ceased?

Q: Has the gift of tongues ceased? I have heard that that is what the Scriptures teach. Please explain as I find it confusing that some people say it has, and some say it hasn’t. Why is there so much confusion in the church over this issue?

A: First, concerning the question as to whether or not the gift of tongues has ceased. There is a lot of misunderstanding in the church concerning this gift. There are two opposing views which say that either (1) the gift of tongues has completely ceased and is not needed for today (and is not available), or (2) that the gift of tongues has not ceased and is indispensable for today. My, what a huge difference in views! And both of these are coming from sincere, Bible-believing, Christians. As always, our starting point in answering this question must be the Scriptures.

In the New Testament, the gift of tongues is mentioned in the gospel of Mark, the book of Acts, and Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. Allow me to briefly go through the references.

In the book of Mark, we read Jesus saying, “These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues” (Mark 16:17).

This verse is a precedent for believing that tongues has not ceased, although some claim that this verse is unreliable in that it is not found in all of the manuscripts (Mark 16:9-20 is not found in all of the manuscripts). However, God’s best minds, who have researched the Scriptures, have decided to include this segment with our Scriptures, with a small footnote, indicating that verses 9-20 are not found in all of the manuscripts, and I would say the reason they have done so is because they understood that:

(1) these verses are found in too many manuscripts to rule out, and

(2) the inclusion of these verses is consistent with everything else the Scriptures teach and does nothing to negate the teachings. This cannot be said of the Apocryphal books, for example, in which, if studied carefully, you will find numerous contradictions to the Scriptures which clearly eliminate them as being divinely inspired by God. [1]

In the book of Acts, we have a record of how tongues came to pass, which happened on the day of Pentecost when the Spirit was poured out. At this time, people of different nationalities were hearing the believers speak in their (the foreigner’s) own language. It was a sign to the foreigners that God was among them (and that they needed to get right with God). Some, however, did not believe. In Acts 2:13, we read, ‘But others were mocking and saying, “They are full of sweet wine.”‘ Thus, the contradictory teaching, if you will, concerning the gift of tongues goes right back to the day of Pentecost!

Interestingly, at that time, Peter stood up to refute the teaching that these people were drunk, and quoted none other than the prophet Joel. We read Peter saying, … “this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel: ‘AND IT SHALL BE IN THE LAST DAYS,’ God says, ‘THAT I WILL POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT ON ALL MANKIND; AND YOUR SONS AND YOUR DAUGHTERS SHALL PROPHESY, AND YOUR YOUNG MEN SHALL SEE VISIONS, AND YOUR OLD MEN SHALL DREAM DREAMS; EVEN ON MY BONDSLAVES, BOTH MEN AND WOMEN, I WILL IN THOSE DAYS POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT’ And they shall prophesy. ‘AND I WILL GRANT WONDERS IN THE SKY ABOVE AND SIGNS ON THE EARTH BELOW, BLOOD, AND FIRE, AND VAPOR OF SMOKE. ‘THE SUN WILL BE TURNED INTO DARKNESS AND THE MOON INTO BLOOD, BEFORE THE GREAT AND GLORIOUS DAY OF THE LORD SHALL COME. ‘AND IT SHALL BE THAT EVERYONE WHO CALLS ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.’ (Acts 2:16-21, Peter quoting Joel 2:28-32)

If you look at the above quote carefully (and you are a serious student of the Bible), you will not help but acknowledge a couple of key things. First, we read the term “LAST DAYS”. It is quite common knowledge that the term “last days” refers to the entire period starting from the time of Christ’s ascension leading right up to his eventual return. Thus, we are currently in the last days. That ought to make you think, because the prophecy of Joel — which Peter uses to defend tongues as being valid — refers to the period referred to as the “last days”. [2]

The second thing you will notice (if you are also a serious student of the Bible) is that Peter’s defense of tongues is irrevocably tied in with all of the signs and wonders mentioned in the same passage, leading right up to the “GREAT AND GLORIOUS DAY OF THE LORD,” all of which have not yet happened yet! Furthermore (if you need further convincing at this point), the fact that Joel’s prophecy applies to the present day is clearly seen because this verse is also irrevocably tied in with both evangelism and salvation, inasmuch as it says, “EVERYONE WHO CALLS ON THE NAME OF THE LORD SHALL BE SAVED”. In short, to teach that Joel’s prophecy was limited to Peter’s day is to do injustice to the Scriptures. You can’t do that, and call yourself a serious student of the Bible.

If then, it is true that Joel’s prophecy applies as much today as it did back when Peter first referred to it, what does it say about the gift of tongues which Peter defended when he quoted it? According to the book of Acts, in conjunction with Joel’s prophecy given in Joel chapter 2, the gift of tongues is given “in these last days” which includes the present day. There is no indication from any of the verses we have seen so far that tongues has ceased, or will cease, in this lifetime. “But what about the passage in the book of first Corinthians that talks about the ‘perfect’ coming so that we’d no longer need tongues?” I can hear someone saying. That will be covered in the next article. If you would like to prepare for that article, I would invite you to read very carefully first Corinthians 12, 13, and 14, paying particular attention to 1 Corinthians 13:8-13, which I will be going over in detail. Until then, keep obeying the Lord, and seeking to serve him with all your might, for one day, God will reward you for all you do for his kingdom’s sake!

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[1] The apocryphal book of Ecclesiasticus 3:30, for example (not to be confused with the book of Ecclesiastes, found in the Old Testament), teaches that salvation can be obtained by works, which Ephesians 2:8-9, Titus 3:5, and many others, clearly says is not so.

[2] This expression is also found in Hebrews 1, for example, in which we read, “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.” (Hebrews 1:1-2) The terms “last days” very clearly includes our present day here.

All Scripture references have been taken from the New American Standard (NASB) Version of the Bible.