The Modern Tongues Movement—An Enemy of Soul Winning
by Pastor Jack Hyles (1926-2001)
(Chapter 1 from Dr. Hyles book, Enemies of Soul-Winning)
Matthew 28:19,20, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, Jam with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen."
Luke 24:47, "And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem."
Mark 16:15, "And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature."
Acts 1:8, "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth."
John 20:21, "Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you."
All of the aforementioned Scriptures deal with the commission that our Lord has given us to take the Gospel to the entire world and to every creature. Upon the resurrection of our Lord, the church in Jerusalem had a wonderful ingathering of souls. However, a problem arose. There were people there out of every nation under Heaven. Acts 2:5, 9, 10, 11a. "And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians...."
Now, what could be done? People from all over the world were there in Jerusalem. Peter stood up to preach. The Gospel was being delivered, but the people could not understand what Peter was saying.
Suddenly, a miracle took place. God gave the ability to the soul winners there to speak in other languages. Acts 2:4, "And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance." The word "tongues" here is the word "glossa," in the Greek, which means either the physical tongue or a language.
Now then, every man from all the countries heard the Word of God in his own language. Acts 2:6, 8, "Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?" It is very interesting here that the word "language" in verse 6 and the word "tongue" in verse 8 are used interchangeably. Then in verse 11, we have the word "tongues" mentioned again. "Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God." This was given in order that people might be saved.
1. This wonderful miracle was perverted by some immature Christians. I Corinthians 3:1-4, "And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: or hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?"
Paul wrote many letters as inspired by the Holy Spirit. He wrote to the churches in Corinth, Rome, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, Colosse and Thessalonica. The only church to which he mentioned tongues was the church at Corinth. These were the "tongue-talkers." Now let's see if they had something that the other churches did not have. Let's see if they were more spiritual than the other churches. Notice several things in the first four verses of I Corinthians 3.
(1) They were carnal, which means "fleshly." (Verse 1) It is obvious that they lived in the flesh. You will find this same thing in verse 4 when Paul asks the question, "Are ye not carnal?"
(2) They were babes in Christ. (Verse 1)
(3) They were not mature enough to eat spiritual meat. (Verse 2) He had to feed them with milk.
(4) They were a church tilled with envying, strife and division. (Verse 3) Notice, they are called carnal twice more.
(5) They walked as men. (Verses 3 and 4)
So here we have a church of fleshly people who are babes in Christ; who could not bear to eat spiritual meat, but had to be fed with milk; who were filled with envy, strife and divisions; and who were followers of men.
So this is the church that was filled with the tongue-talkers. Did they have something the other churches didn't have? They absolutely did! They had carnality, envying, strife, divisions and were spiritual babes. It doesn't sound like they had some kind of a second blessing or a sanctification that others didn't have. Certainly they were not to be envied, but rather to be pitied.
2. This gift of speaking in other languages in order for people to be saved who could not understand the language commonly used was the least important of all the spiritual gifts. I Corinthians 12:4-10, "Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues." I Corinthians 12:28-31, "And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way."
Now notice several things:
(1) All were not given the same gifts. I Corinthians 12:8 and 9 say that one was given the word of wisdom, another the word of knowledge, another faith, another the gifts of healing, etc. The modern tongues movement claims that this gift of tongues is available to all. Absolutely not! God does give gifts to each of us, but does not give all of us every gift.
(2) This gift of tongues was the least important of all. Notice the list in I Corinthians 12:8-10. The last one mentioned is the gift of tongues. Now notice the list in I Corinthians 12:28. Once again, the last gift mentioned is the gift of tongues. Notice the word "secondarily" in verse 28.
Also notice the word "thirdly" in that verse. These are adverbs which modify the verb "set," which means that these gifts are given in order of their importance. The apostles were more important than the prophets, the prophets more important than the teachers, the teachers more important than the miracles, the miracles more important than the healings, etc. The last in importance is the gift of tongues. This gift was last in importance because it was least needed.
(3) This gift was not earned. The fact that it is called a gift teaches us that it is not earned.
3. There is no record that Jesus, our example and pattern, ever had to use this gift. All Christians would agree that our goal should be to be like Jesus. I John 4:17, "Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as he is, so are we in this world." Philippians 2:5, "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus." John
14:12, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father."
There is not one record in all the ministry of Jesus when He spoke in tongues, meaning He had no occasion to do so. His entire earthly life was limited to one little country of just a few square miles. It was not necessary for Him to speak in tongues. Now if He did not speak in tongues, is a person less spiritual because he does not have that gift or because his calling does not necessitate such a gift?
4. Jesus rebuked the Corinthian people because of their perversion of this gift. Notice the following study of I Corinthians 14.
Verse 1, "Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy." The best spiritual gift, and the one to be most desired, was to prophesy, which means "to teach, to reveal truth," etc.
Verse 2, "For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries." These people who were speaking in tongues when no unsaved people were present and who were causing confusion in the church were understood only by God and not by man. Of course, God understands all languages, but the people couldn't understand, so the "tongue-talkers" were rebuked for using this gift in the church.
Verse 3, "But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort." Those who were perverting this gift were not edifying. Notice that they could not comfort, exhort or edify God's people with this gift.
Verse 4, "He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edified himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church." Notice the selfishness of those who spoke needlessly in other languages, and the unselfishness of those who taught so they could edify the church.
Verse 5, "I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying." Paul wished for every Christian that he would have the opportunity someday to witness to a person in another language so that person could hear the Gospel in his own language and be saved, but he plainly says that the one who teaches the Bible is a greater person than he that talks in another language.
Verse 9, "So likewise ye. except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air." Notice he says that someone who talks in other languages, unless there is someone there who can understand that language who is not saved, is speaking into the air. He is wasting his time.
Verse 12, "Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church." Notice Paul says that since you are wanting spiritual gifts, you should seek the most important one; that is, edifying the church, or of being understood so you can help people.
Verse 14, "For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful." Paul rebukes the heresy of praying in tongues. Listen, it is a waste of time. God knows English, and the gift of tongues was given so that people of other races might be saved.
Verse 15, "What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also." Paul teaches here that to be spiritual is to pray or sing so one can be understood. The modern "tongue-talkers" would lead us to believe that to be extra spiritual is to talk in tongues. Paul says to be extra spiritual is to be understood.
Verse 16, "Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest?" It has always been the common practice of New Testament, soul-winning Baptist churches to say "Amen" in church. Paul wonders how one could say "Amen" if he cannot understand what is being said.
Verse 18, "I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all." Paul told the people that he spoke with tongues more than all of them did. Of course, this was necessary. Paul traveled from country to country, and God enabled him to speak in other languages so that the people of different nations could understand the Gospel.
Verse 19, "Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue." Paul said that when you go to church, it's 2000 times better to speak and be understood than to speak and not be understood.
Verse 22, "Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe." Ah, here is the clincher. It plainly says that tongues are for those "that believe not." In other words, it is a tool for soul winning. The modern tongues movement-I suppose I should not say "modern," for it is not modern; it was used in the baby, un-spiritual, carnal church in Corinth - confuses the unsaved, and in some cases even frightens them away from the Gospel.
Verse 26, "How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrines hath a tongue. hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying." Paul is saying here that in church everything should be done to edify. This totally eliminates the talking in tongues in church unless there are unsaved people there who cannot understand the language being used.
Verse 33, "For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints." Paul explains to us that the tongues movement being used at the church at Corinth (which was not a Bible tongues movement at all) was confusion, and God was not the author of that!
Verse 34, "Let your women keep silence in the churches:
for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law." Along with the perversion of tongues and other perversions by the church at Corinth, the ladies were speaking in these languages. Paul told them to be quiet in church. Notice also verse 35, "And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church."
Verse 39, "Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues." Here is the conclusion of the matter. Paul says that teaching is the best gift, but we should not disbelieve the gift of tongues. This gift was begun on Pentecost. Sometimes it is necessary.
The First Baptist Church of Hammond is located in the metropolitan Chicago area. People from many parts of the world have settled in Chicago. It is not unusual for people to come to our services who cannot understand English, but speak other languages. For example, we have a special ministry to the Spanish-speaking people. In our Spanish-speaking department alone, it is not unusual for us to have over 2000 people to come to hear the Gospel preached in Spanish. There is no need for anyone to have the gift of tongues concerning the Spanish people, because we have people who can teach them in their own language.
We also have a ministry to the Vietnamese and Cambodians, so it is not necessary for one to have the gift of tongues to reach them.
It is quite common for Romanian people to be saved in our church. Fortunately, we have a businessman and his wife who speak fluent Romanian, and often during the invitation time, we call upon them to come and win Romanian people to Christ.
On occasion we have had people to come to the altar who can understand only Arabic. Again, fortunately, we have a doctor and his wife in our church who speak Arabic.
The same thing could be said concerning German people and others.
However, one Sunday morning one of our young businessmen came to the altar and said, "Pastor, I have a Chinese lady on the back row of the lower section of the auditorium who is weeping and obviously wants to be saved, but she cannot understand English. I have tried to witness to her, but she speaks only the Chinese language. Please ask if anyone in the auditorium can speak Chinese." I did ask for someone to come to translate the Gospel into the Chinese language. There was no one. This young man was so disappointed. He went back to his seat, and I forgot about the Chinese lady because of the busy time during the invitation.
After the service this same young businessman came forward. His face was as pale as a ghost. He said, "Pastor, something happened back there a while ago that I could not believe."
He continued to talk, stuttering as he did, but this is what he said. "Pastor, I went back to the back row, and I told this Chinese lady in English that I could not find anyone to tell her how to be saved, but that I was going to tell her in English, even if she could not understand. Immediately when I started presenting the plan of salvation, a startled look of understanding came on her face. She pointed to her ears, shook her head up and down as she was understanding what I said. I tested her. I asked her to stand up; she did. I asked her to sit down; she did. I asked her to raise her hand; she did. She was understanding my English, though she could not speak or understand the English language. I told her how to be saved. She received Christ as her Saviour, and immediately after she prayed and received Christ, she pointed to her ears, shook her head from side to side as if she could not understand me anymore. Pastor, I don't know what that is."
Now I did not say it; I'm just telling you what the man said. It has never happened to me; I have never had an occasion to have such a need, but this young businessman, not expecting it, not seeking it or even desiring it, told me that story. You can make your own judgment, but whatever happened in this instance, it is exactly what happened on the day of Pentecost, and it is exactly what the gift of tongues was to the New Testament church in the book of Acts.
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