This is a very simple subject that is made difficult because of the hearts and minds of man. When we let The Holy Spirit speak through scripture and let Him tell us what he is saying in scripture we can see exactly what it is.
conversation, speech, discourse, language
the tongue or language peculiar to any people
Tongue, γλῶσσα, G1100,
the language or dialect used by a particular people distinct from that of other nations.
The different greek words denote the general nature or the specific nature language. But what they all have in common is it is a language used by people.
When Pentecost happened, everyone spoke in a language used by other people. What would be the miracle and spiritual gift look like? It would be this:
I do not know how to speak or under stand Mandarin; I only speak English. A person who only speaks and understand Mandarin but does not understand or speak English. We run into each other. I being to speak. I being speaking fluid Mandarin. Or I speak English and the person perfectly understands and speaks back in fluid English. That would be a miracle, gifted by the Holy Spirit for me to speak in [the Mandarin] tongue.
The gift of interpretation of the tongue is just that. But how is interpretation then a gift from the spirit as well? It would be this:
I only speak English and run into two people who only speak Mandarin. As I speak English, one of the persons shockingly can understand, without any prior knowledge, what I am saying perfectly and then relays it to the other person in Mandarin. That person is given the gift of interpreting.
Is there some kind of heavenly language that is not known by man that sounds like gibberish in all languages? Paul address this easily. “I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a [unknown] tongue”. Besides Paul making it clear that unintelligible tongues are just ‘clanging dongs’ that have no meaning or value it is clear that a babbling gibberish sounded ‘holy’ language is out of the question and is not supported in scripture.
Is the gift of tongues and interpretation still being granted today?
This issue divides people and churches. We need to understand that if God wanted to grant these gifts today, he will. That is not what is being questioned. Its not can he grant these gifts but IS HE currently and still granting them presently. If it is being granted today, it will NOT in anyway conflict with scripture. The Holy Spirit directly influenced Scripture and is the only granted and would grant the gift.
Here is a simple test to know if it is of God or of another spirit (1 John 4):
Gift of Tongues Test:
- AGREEMENT: It will agree with scripture
- REAL LANGUAGE: It will be a real and intelligible language (1 Cor 14:10)
- RELAY GOD’S WORD: It will relay Holy Scripture to a person of another language (Acts 2:6-12).
- UNDERSTOOD OR INTERPRETED: It must be understood or interpreted for God’s Glory (1 Cor 14:27-28)
- NOT CONFUSING: It will not be confusing but lead to the growth of faith (1 Cor 14:33)
- HOLY SPIRIT DECIDES: It will be granted by the Holy Spirit alone, and not by excessive pray, fasting, or human will (1 Cor 12:11).
Paul points out that it will in fact cease (1 Cor 13:8). It is not entirely clear when but that it was not intended to be a gift granted forever. With that said and looking at its use in Acts and the early church and comparing mission work world wide today; it is clear that the gift is not granted (or very rarely) like it was when the church was born. This is NOT to say it has forever ended or ended at all. But at the same time it is NOT granted like it was in Acts.
Some churches like the Pentecostal church and Charasmatic churches claim that they have the gift of tongues to this day much like the Montanist of the 2nd century. But with a simple comparison of Holy Scripture as interpreted by The Holy Spirit, the use of their version of ‘the tongue’ and the biblical witness of its use are not the same. In fact in just about all the cases, it is not in agreement with scripture in many ways. Therefore; it is not the Holy Spirit.
What then is it?
There are only two other explanations for people believing and acting as if they are gifted. The spirit of the anti-Christs or a false teacher or false prophet can deceive believers into thinking and believing something that is not true. Satan and false teachers use God’s Words in ways to get people to think and act in disagreement with The Spirit of Truth. They can do signs and wonders too. They can convince people to act in certain ways and do certain things. Their followers can actually believe that what they are doing is true. Ultimately they are lead away into trusting in their own works and efforts (the false gifts) and in the works and efforts of other men (signs and wonders) all dressed up as something in ‘jesus name’.
If at anytime a church or teacher claims to be speaking in tongues; be obedient to 1 John 4 and test with the biblical principles outlined in the “Gift of Tongues Test”.