In late 2012, Pastor Jermin asked the members and friends of the Fellowship to submit questions that they had about all things Biblical. Nothing was out of bounds. All of the submitted questions were answered within the Fellowship, during the early part of 2013, and we are posting them on a continuing basis. Here is the next one:
A) Do you have to speak in tongues to be saved/Christian?
B) What is praying in the Spirit? What is the biblical basis for it?
The Answer: A) Simple quick answer? In a word, No.
But we must then ask the larger question, namely:
What is speaking in tongues?
Well what are Tongues? Simply, languages. The term that is used to identify the tongues movement is “glossolalia,” made up of two Greek words, glossa (language or tongue) and lalia (speech). It therefore means speaking in languages or tongues.
This is from Lehman Strauss:
“The word glossa appears in the Greek New Testament not less than fifty times. It is used to refer to the physical organ of the tongue as in James 3:5; once in reference to the flames of fire shaped like tongues (Acts 2:3); at least once in a metaphorical sense when referring to speech as in the statement, “my tongue (speech) was glad (joyous)” (Acts 2:26). As far as I understand the remaining usages of the word it always means a language.
When our Lord predicted the gift of tongues (the only mention of tongues in the four Gospel records) He said, “And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name they shall cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues” (Mark 16:17). The adjective “new” (Gr. kainos) can only mean they were going to speak in languages new to them, that is, languages they had not learned or used until that time. If I say the Russian language is “new” to me, I do not mean that I never knew there was such a language, but rather its use by me is new to me because I can neither speak it nor understand it when I hear others speak it. On the other hand the German language is not altogether “new” to me because I can both read and speak it with a small degree of understanding.
In Acts 2:4 Luke uses a different adjective when he says, “they began to speak with other tongues.” The word “other” (Gr. heteros) simply means that they spoke in languages different from the normal language they were used to. The context substantiates this. Notice the surprised reaction on the part of the hearers—“And they were all amazed and marveled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galileans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?” (Acts 2:7,8). Every man heard them speak in his own language (Acts 2:6). Here the word “language” is the translation of dialekto from which our word “dialect” comes. The two words glossa (tongue) and dialektos (language) are used synonymously, making it obvious that the disciples were speaking in known languages other than the language native to them. In verses 9-11 the languages are then identified. It was a miraculous phenomenon which enabled the disciples to speak in languages which they had never learned. Here in this Acts passage we have tongues-speaking in its pure and unperverted form as God gave it.
The following verses in the Book of the Revelation should be examined carefully (Revelation 5:9; 7:9; 10:11; 11:9; 13:7; 14:6; 17:15). In each passage where the word “tongue” is mentioned it means one of the languages associated with the various nationalities and races. I see no reason why anyone should raise a question as to the tongues in .those passages in Mark, Acts and Revelation meaning languages.” – Lehman Strauss, as quoted in the book: Encyclopaedia of Oriental Philosophy and Religion: Christianity, (p. 532) edited by Nagendra Kr Singh, A. P. Mishra
If the preceding is correct (and I for one believe it to be) then it must be asked why the speaking of different languages would be necessary for salvation? The answer is that it is not.
Then what is it for?
Consider the following verses:
1 Corinthians 12:1-11, 27-31 (HCSB)
1 Now concerning what comes from the Spirit: brothers, I do not want you to be unaware. 2 You know that when you were pagans, you used to be led off to the idols that could not speak. 3 Therefore I am informing you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus is cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. 4 Now there are different gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are different ministries, but the same Lord. 6 And there are different activities, but the same God activates each gift in each person. 7 A demonstration of the Spirit is given to each person to produce what is beneficial: 8 to one is given a message of wisdom through the Spirit, to another, a message of knowledge by the same Spirit, 9 to another, faith by the same Spirit, to another, gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another, the performing of miracles, to another, prophecy, to another, distinguishing between spirits, to another, different kinds of languages, to another, interpretation of languages. 11 But one and the same Spirit is active in all these, distributing to each person as He (the Spirit) wills.
27 Now you are the body of Christ, and individual members of it. 28 And God has placed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, next miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, managing, various kinds of languages. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all do miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in other languages? Do all interpret? 31 But desire the greater gifts. And I will show you an even better way.
In this passage, the Apostle Paul seems to be stating rather concretely, that the speaking of other languages is a gift of the Spirit, and it appears to be, like the others, for use in building the body of Christ. So, just as every believer is not a Pastor, nor is every person in the body possessive of the Prophetic gift, or the teaching gift, not everyone has the gift of other languages, or their interpretation.
This, in my opinion is directly in line with Jesus’ statement as quoted by Mark, specifically:
“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In My name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new languages; they will pick up snakes; if they should drink anything deadly, it will never harm them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will get well.” – Mark 16:15-18 (HCSB)
In the process of going forth and preaching the Gospel, as sent/ordered by the master, these ‘signs’ shall accompany (the phrase ‘those who believe’ does not appear in the original Greek), who? As it appears that there is a fulfillment of this command in verse 20, I am of the opinion that the signs were to accompany those to whom He spoke, as a testament to HIS power and the truth of the message they preached…
So where does the ‘Tongues’ doctrine find its root?
As far as I can tell, in Acts 2, Acts 10, Acts 19, and 1 Corinthians 14. If you care to go a little deeper, to answer the questions more fully, one needs to examine the ‘tongues as evidence’ doctrine more deeply. It has its roots firmly in the book of Acts, and in that fact lays the fundamental problem. What is the book of Acts?
“The book of Acts is a historical narrative in contrast, for example, to the Epistles of the New Testament which are didactic or doctrinal or instructive to the church. This is a chronicle. It is a story really of the early church experiences. The Epistles, on the other hand, contain detailed instruction for believers throughout all the church age. So, in the Epistles, you have the rather permanent instruction and doctrine for the church. In the book of Acts, you have a chronicle of the history of the early church experiences. Historically, Christians committed to a Biblical perspective, have recognized the difference, and it is an important difference to recognize. Evangelical theologians through the years have drawn the heart of their doctrine from Bible passages intended to teach the church. They have understood that Acts is an inspired, historical record of the apostolic period, not necessarily viewing every event or every phenomenon that occurs there as normative for the entire church age.” – Dr. John McArthur
It is essential to the doctrine of speaking in tongues, (and to much of today’s Pentecostalism), that the book of Acts be viewed as both a historical and doctrinal, but then the question arises, namely, what is normative?
From Gordon Fee, a writer who is a Charismatic,
“How do the individual narratives in Acts, or any other biblical narrative for that matter, function as precedents for the later church, or do they? That is, does the book of Acts have a Word that not only describes the primitive church but speaks as a norm to the church at all times? If there is such a Word, how does one discover it or set up principles to aid in hearing it? If not, then what do we do with the concept of precedent? In short, just exactly what role does historical precedent play in Christian doctrine or in the understanding of Christian experience?
It must be noted at the outset that almost all biblical Christians tend to treat precedent as normative authority to some degree or another. But it is seldom done with consistency. On the one hand, people tend to follow some narratives as establishing obligatory patterns, while neglecting others; on the other hand, they sometimes tend to make one pattern mandatory when there is a complexity of patterns in Acts itself.” – How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. Gordon D. Fee & Douglas Stuart. Grand rapids, Michigan: Zondervan publishing House, 1993. Page 105.
So what does this mean?
Well, it means specifically that the doctrine of tongues as we know it in Pentecostal/Charismatic circles is probably erroneous/fallacious/unbiblical.
But then you ask:
‘But what about 1st Corinthians 14?
‘After all, Paul is speaking here about tongues, and it is not in the book of Acts…’
Well, let’s examine it
1 Corinthians 14:1-7 (HCSB)
1 Pursue love and desire spiritual gifts, and above all that you may prophesy. 2 For the person who speaks in another language is not speaking to men but to God, since no one understands him; however, he speaks mysteries in the Spirit. 3 But the person who prophesies speaks to people for edification, encouragement, and consolation. 4 The person who speaks in another language builds himself up, but he who prophesies builds up the church. 5 I wish all of you spoke in other languages, but even more that you prophesied. The person who prophesies is greater than the person who speaks in languages, unless he interprets so that the church may be built up. 6 But now, brothers, if I come to you speaking in other languages, how will I benefit you unless I speak to you with a revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching? 7 Even inanimate things that produce sounds—whether flute or harp—if they don’t make a distinction in the notes, how will what is played on the flute or harp be recognized?
1 Corinthians 14:8-19 (HCSB)
8 In fact, if the trumpet makes an unclear sound, who will prepare for battle?
9 In the same way, unless you use your tongue for intelligible speech, how will what is spoken be known? For you will be speaking into the air. 10 There are doubtless many different kinds of languages in the world, and all have meaning. 11 Therefore, if I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be a foreigner to the speaker, and the speaker will be a foreigner to me. 12 So also you—since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, seek to excel in building up the church. 13 Therefore the person who speaks in another language should pray that he can interpret. 14 For if I pray in another language, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful. 15 What then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with my understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with my understanding. 16 Otherwise, if you praise with the spirit, how will the uninformed person say “Amen” at your giving of thanks, since he does not know what you are saying? 17 For you may very well be giving thanks, but the other person is not being built up. 18 I thank God that I speak in other languages more than all of you; 19 yet in the church I would rather speak five words with my understanding, in order to teach others also, than 10,000 words in another language.
I have heard it preached, based on this scripture, that the practice of ‘speaking in tongues’ is a personal act, which takes place between the believer and the Lord, for personal edification (v.4a), and Paul even says that he wishes that they could all speak in tongues (v.5a). But look at the second half of both of those verses, and remember to WHOM the apostle is speaking and about WHAT. He is speaking to a competitive, selfish, sin-allowing church about unity, Love, Peace and true faith.
So, could it be that He is in fact saying, (understanding the purpose of tongues as described in Mark’s Gospel, and in the passages in the book of Acts) that it is better that you seek to build up the body than try to exhibit ‘signs’ in order to puff yourself up, (v12, 17) especially since the signs that you want to exhibit, have no place or point in the Worship service, and the goal in the service is the building up of all (v.16, 19).
If ‘speaking in tongues’ is for the purpose of declaring the works of God in languages that you are not a speaker of, and from all of the other accounts, these are human languages, then it need only occur in evangelistic situation, no?
A potentially dangerous doctrine?
That said, I would like to make note of something specifically concerning the ‘tongues’ doctrine. In my view, it is potentially harmful. I agree with the statements below, made by former Pentecostals, and tongues speakers…
“The enemy of the soul is ever ready to take advantage of an out of control situation, and thousands of Christians can testify with regret to the end results. Such experiences not only give Satan an opening he is quick to exploit, they can be physiologically damaging to the individual. Charismatic writers are constantly warning tongue speakers that they will suffer a letdown, this is ascribed to the devil and the reader is urged to get refilled as soon as possible. So the seeker for experience goes back through the ritual again and again, but begins to discover something. Ecstatic experience, like drug addiction, requires larger and larger doses to satisfy.
Sometimes the bizarre is introduced; I’ve seen people run around a room until they were exhausted. I’ve seen people climb tent poles, laugh hysterically, go into trances for days, and do other weird things, as the high sought becomes more elusive. Eventually there is a crisis and a decision is made; he will sit on the back seats and be a spectator, fake it, or go on in the hope that everything will eventually be as it was. The most tragic decision is to quit and in the quitting abandon all things spiritual as fraudulent. The spectators are frustrated, the fakers suffer guilt, the hoping are pitiable, and the quitters are a tragedy. No, such movements are not harmless.” – From: ‘The Corinthian Catastrophe’ (p.61) By George E. Gardiner
“To say that speaking in tongues is a harmless practice, and is all right for those who want to, is an unwise position when information to the contrary is evident. Speaking in tongues is addictive. The misunderstanding of the issue of tongues and the habit, plus the psychic high it brings, plus the stimulation of the flesh, equals a practice hard to let go of. But to equate much speaking in tongues with advanced spirituality is to reveal one’s misunderstanding of Bible truth, and to reveal one’s willingness to be satisfied with a deceptive and dangerous counterfeit.” – From: ‘The Truth About Speaking in Tongues’ (p.49) By Ben Byrd
The Answer: Part B – What is praying in the Spirit? What is the biblical basis for it?
First, let’s examine the phrase ‘In the Spirit’. According to the Greek text, the word for Spirit is πνεύματι pronounced ‘pneumati’ and the word used for in, in Ephesians 6:1 8 is ἐν, pronounced ‘en’. This is of particular importance in light of the fact that the preposition ἐν also is translated as in, on, at, by, among or with. For example: Matthew 1:18 Mary was found to be WITH child, Matthew 1:20 for that which is conceived IN her is… Matthew 2:6, the least AMONG the princes…
I am making an assumption that the belief questioned here, is based in the Pentecostal doctrine that ‘praying in the Spirit’= ‘praying in tongues’, so the next statement addresses that. It is drawn from http://www.gotquestions.org, and expanded upon by me.:
Support for the position that ‘speaking in tongues’ equals ‘prayer in the Spirit’, is drawn, principally, from two passages: (1) 1 Corinthians 14:13-16 [explicitly], and (2) Jude 19-20 [implicitly]. Of the two, the first is the most frequently presented:
The Greek word translated for “pray in ” (as shown above ) can have several different meanings. It can also mean “by means of,” “with the help of,” “in the sphere of,” and “in connection to.” Praying in the Spirit does not refer to the words we are saying. Rather, it refers to how we are praying.
Praying in the Spirit is praying according to the Spirit’s leading. It is praying for things that the Spirit leads us to pray for. It is praying to the Father in accordance with His will, with the assistance of the Spirit.
Romans 8:26 tells us, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.”
This verse cannot be used to bolster the belief that one can pray in the spirit (in tongues) because it clearly states that it is THE SPIRIT who intercedes with groans that words (in tongues or otherwise) cannot express, or as the KJV puts it:
8:26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
Some, based on 1 Corinthians 14:15, equate praying in the Spirit with praying in tongues. Discussing the gift of tongues, Paul mentions “pray with my spirit.” First Corinthians 14:14 states that when a person prays in tongues, he does not know what he is saying, since it is spoken in a language he does not know. Further, no one else can understand what is being said, unless there is an interpreter (1 Corinthians 14:27-28). In Ephesians 6:18, Paul instructs us to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” How are we to pray with all kinds of prayers and requests and pray for the saints, if no one, including the person praying, understands what is being said?
But what about Jude 1:20?
Let’s look quickly at Jude v. 20, which says, ‘20 But you, dear friends, as you build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit,’ – Notice that there is a ‘but’ at the beginning of this verse, and a comma at the end, meaning that this is only a part of a complete thought. What is the entire thought? Let’s get the entire passage and see. Speaking of apostates,
12 These are the ones who are like dangerous reefs at your love feasts. They feast with you, nurturing only themselves without fear. They are waterless clouds carried along by winds; trees in late autumn—fruitless, twice dead, pulled out by the roots; 13 wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shameful deeds; wandering stars for whom the blackness of darkness is reserved forever!
14 And Enoch, in the seventh ⌊generation⌋ from Adam, prophesied about them: Look! The Lord comes with thousands of His holy ones 15 to execute judgment on all and to convict them of all their ungodly acts that they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things ungodly sinners have said against Him. 16 These people are discontented grumblers, walking according to their desires; their mouths utter arrogant words, flattering people for their own advantage.
17 But you, dear friends, remember what was predicted by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; 18 they told you, “In the end time there will be scoffers walking according to their own ungodly desires.” 19 These people create divisions and are unbelievers, not having the Spirit.
20 But you, dear friends, as you build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, expecting the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ for eternal life. – Jude 1:12-21 (HCSB)
So the apostle is saying that, contrary to the apostates, believers are to keep ourselves in the love of God, (which is accomplished how? By obedience to His will, see John 15:5-15) by ‘building yourselves up in your most Holy faith and praying in the Spirit. In this context, I believe that praying in the Spirit is a matter of being in agreement with the will of God, for how else can we obey? It is by the Spirit that we have the mind of Christ, and are able to understand the will of God (See 1st Corinthians 2:6-16)
Conclusion: it is my contention that praying in the Spirit should be understood as praying in the power of the Spirit, by the leading of the Spirit, and according to His will, not as praying in unknown tongues.
Sola scriptura (“by Scripture alone”)
Sola fide (“by faith alone”) / Sola gratia (“by grace alone”)
Solo Christo (“Christ alone” or “through Christ alone”)
Soli Deo gloria (“glory to God alone”)